“Hang on,” says my left one, “it wasn’t the right one at all! It was a LUMP on it. Not the boob itself. Humph.”
I’ll let them battle it out, shall I? For fight as they may, I am the one telling the story here.
So anyway, there I was, in the middle of a semi mid-life crisis of the first world kind. Paralysed by choice. Where do I go from here?
So pre-occupied was my mind with sorting through this endless array of options that it seems ridiculous now to realise that I didn’t even register the sore spot on my breast – oh alright, my RIGHT breast! – as being anything of particular concern. That I mentioned it at all to my doctor (in passing as I got up to leave an appointment for other matters) I can only put down to luck.
Or intuition. Or my right breast’s incessant nagging.
Point is, I wasn’t in the slightest bit worried about it. That is, until he said four words.
“There’s a lump there.”
He had obviously seen the sharp focus/blurred background ‘Hollywood soul-rocking moment’ that my face was now exhibiting before, because he quickly printed out the ultrasound referral, assured me there was no point worrying and that I just had to cross any bridge IF and when I came to it.
I smiled. I got in my car. I called my husband. The moment the words were out of my own mouth, it all became so…real.
I cried. My hubby took the day off work. We sat in bed, watched movies and cried.
I was embarrassed at the extent of my melodrama. I mean, hey, I hadn’t even had the ultrasound, yet here I was carrying on as if I’d just been handed a death sentence. I tried to be stoic, to not let it get to me, to hold things in perspective and to just breathe. I tried to not let myself go to the dark place where things like breast cancer could actually be a reality in my life. But an image crossed my mind that crumpled any ounce of strength I had – my children.
Having lost my own mother at the age of five, I know – I mean, I really KNOW – the indescribable life term of pain that comes with that territory. A couple of years ago, a little girl my husband taught in his grade one class lost her mother suddenly, unexpectedly, without warning. I bawled for her because it’s just such a long road of grief, one I don’t think you ever really get over.
You learn to deal with it of course. You learn to accept it and how to talk about it without breaking up, but the absence is ever-present. But I don’t think I even began to really process my grief until I was eighteen, an age which unfortunately coincided with my discovery of alcohol. This lead to an impressively messy and emotionally exhausting arrival into young adulthood.
Just the thought of my own kids having to face this, even though I know full well I am powerless against the big and mighty world when it comes to sheltering them from every little pain, niggle and cruelty that might come their way. Well it was devastating.
I took a breath. Okay. Instead of wallowing over what might or might not be, I turned my thoughts to the positive side of the worst case scenario. Say the news was bad. Worse than bad. Say I found out I only had a few years left. What would I do with them?
I started writing. And writing. And writing.
And noticed to my complete surprise that NONE of my scrawlings had anything to do at all with performing, something to which I had dedicated the last near-decade of my life.
Instead, they were all about family. Home. Friends. And writing.
Writing. This one really surprised me given that of late it has been all but an afterthought, a second fiddle – though essential fiddle! – to my performing aspirations.
But when faced with a rather extreme call to clarify my priorities, writing came up trumps. I want to get all this stuff, all these passions, all these longings, all these thoughts…out of my head and onto the page. That it came up at all was quite significant as part of me thought that if my time on earth was about to end I would say a hasty if tearful adieu to any career/creative related stuff and focus exclusively on family.
But no. It seemed that creating, producing, writing is apparently THAT important. Having an outlet for all these thoughts, imaginings and creative energy is part of what makes me a better mother.
Passion is important. That afternoon I took a deep breath and slipped into a blue gown. I lay down on the bench, while a perfect stranger covered my breasts – yes, both of them – in warm jelly, while proceeding to treat them like a mousepad, with her little scanner sliding all over them and around while she stared at the screen. I felt absolutely terrified.
But I also felt the extreme calm that comes with razor sharp clarity and knowledge. If the worst came to worst, I could face it knowing exactly what I’d be focusing on.
The test was clear.
And so, finally, was my head.
My breasts changed my life. They brought everything into focus for me.
They helped me work out what I truly want from life. They brought me to writing this very piece right now.
It took my very own breasts to show me that up until now: I’d been a total boob.
Photo credit: Kimbells