Here’s the thing about breast cancer: it has infuriating self-possession. When a lump decides to make an appearance, it does so on its own timetable, at its own discretion. Never mind that its unsuspecting host has much better things to do, like starting graduate school, writing blog posts, going to work, or just plain living her life, thank you.
Two months ago, I am taking a shower when I discover a tiny pea—a nothing, really—living inside my body. I try to ignore it. Hmm. What’s this? Eh, probably nothing. No less than two weeks later (How’s that for good timing?), I mention it to my doctor in passing—in passing, mind you! One mammogram, one targeted sonogram, and one core biopsy, and many, many sleepless nights later, a humorless radiologist informs me I am harboring a malignant lesion. The cancer, or BC as I call it (we’ve grown quite intimate), has burrowed into the softest, most tender tissue of my being, as if into a mattress, fully intending to grow there throughout the winter; or until I die, whichever comes faster.
“Good luck with that,” the radiologist says.
From that dreadful day on, the cancer works to undermine my princess-like composure, and I try everything to keep from folding under the stress. On good days I am optimistic, a positive thinker, who endeavors to remain in the moment. I have embraced the lesson that shit happens, that things fall apart (Thank you, Pema Chödrön), and I’ve never, ever deigned to think I was immune. Still, the bad days prove to be an unequal contest, because A) cancer doesn’t care, and B) I have way, way too much to lose.
So what I want to say to you—yes, you BC—is this: I’ve grown rather fond of my breasts. I really have. And I’d like to reserve the option to swim topless in the South of France, or do a silly fan dance with a 34B matching set. (Not that it’s any of your damn business how I spend my free time.)
I am not your typical cancer risk: I do not carry “the gene;” I have never smoked, I practice yoga, I am an on-again-off-again vegetarian. I wonder, was it the bacon?
This is how the bargaining with BC goes on inside my head during the excruciating weeks that follow:
Listen here, BC, because I adore my husband, because I love our family, our friends, our cats, our little house in the country, I am willing to trade you one lump of my precious flesh for 30, no 40, more years of living.
I will see your measly lump of flesh and raise you your entire right breast, plus prescribe you chemotherapy!
Take it or leave it, lady.
Sorry, BC, no deal. I’m calling your bluff.
With that, BC reveals its weaker hand in a pathology report that reads: Stage 1a, contained. Translation: Prognosis good.
Life to be continued…
The moral of my story, ladies? If you haven’t done so yet, please oh please take a moment to schedule your annual mammogram. It just may save your life.
To see more incredible illustrations by Edmund Dulac, visit dulac.artpassions.net