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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

What happened? Did you find a lump?
No lump. I went for my annual mammogram in early November, the day before my birthday. On the morning of my birthday, I got a call from a nurse asking if I could come back for a second mammogram (Cue Frosty the Snowman clip, but insert F word between happy and birthday). Now fast forward two days: back in for 2nd mammogram, then invited into closet-sized consultation room, which is never good, and told my suspicious calcifications required a biopsy. I had a hunch, then, that this was a completely different experience from the time, twenty years earlier, I found a lump under my armpit and went to the  emergency room only to have  a medical student with a dire, confused look on his face find a doctor who, after inspection, deemed my lump, “a large vein.” At least this time I'm legit.

Your blog is called “I had a boob once.” Does this mean you are losing your boob?
Although the cancer was caught early, the cells have taken up enough mammary real estate that the best course of action is a mastectomy. So I’m losing the right boob and gaining an implant on February 12th. The follow up to this question is usually, “How do you feel about losing a boob?”  I've been thinking about this one for a while. After reading Nora Ephron’s essay "A Few Words about Breasts" recently, I realized my relationship to my breasts has been the complete opposite of Ms. Ephron's...meaning almost non-existent. Maybe back in the 6th grade, when the female twins around the corner from me sprouted prematurely and attracted all the boys’ attention, I felt slightly inadequate on the boob front. But that was it, really. At 44, I still struggle to operate a bra correctly—the straps are always falling down due to some sort of engineering defect or law of physics I can’t figure out. Anyway,  do I really need my breasts anymore? The only time they truly served me was when I nursed my two boys. Back then, my dainty b-cups transformed into powerful weapons of mass construction, capable of providing gallons of life-sustaining milk to not just my two sons, but probably the whole Octomom family if called upon. Now, they are back to mere accouterments  I guess I'd much rather lose a breast than the following: a foot, an eye, my hands, my mind,  my I-phone.

So, will you be increasing the size of your boobs?
Uh, no. My boobs, I've been told for the first time ever, are perfect just the size they are. Seriously. That’s the one thing two plastic surgeons agreed upon. That my breasts are ideal for implants: “Perky and not droopy. “ I feel like a proud mama.

What caused your cancer?
I'm still wondering this myself. I tested negative for the breast cancer gene, and none of the professionals I've spoken with could really offer an explanation. I have a hunch, however, that all those elementary school glue- sniffing parties I went to had something to do with it.

Yes, that really is me apparently sniffing glue in the back. I have no explanation.

Why, yes. Yes I did. Thank you very much Atlantic editors for including this article as one of your cover stories last month. You timed that beautifully. Upon receiving your magazine in the mail I said to myself “Don’t read this before your surgery. DEFINITELY DO NOT READ THIS.”
Two seconds later, of course, I read it and have been working on perfecting my happy place ever since.

Do you think cancer is funny? I mean really, should you be joking about this?
Yes, I think cancer is kinda funny. Not other people’s cancer of course, but my own. Most days at least, yes. 


  1. Great post. I just had a few thoughts:

    1.) I realize that you have a lot of stuff on your plate right now, and perhaps this isn't the best time to broach this issue, but . . . what is up with that dress that you're wearing in that photo? Were you an Albanian refugee as child?

    I mean, the combination of a serious glue habit + the 1970s can explain away a lot of things, but good Lord . . . Granted it's not as bad as the little girl who appears to have tied up her hair with rope from a yacht rigging, but it's pretty darn close.

    2.) Sticking with the photo: Were you all members of some sort of Girl Scout-esque troop? And, if so, had you gathered to learn the best methods for how not to decorate a throw pillow?

    3.) If you need a back-up happy place, you could always imagine punching me (hard) in the throat while holding a stapler (those first two thoughts were pretty catty).

  2. Kevin, welcome! Good to see you here. As a matter of fact, I actually was an Albanian refugee as a child. I spent a short time in Westchester county New York in order to educate these young women like myself in the ways of Albanian glue sniffing. It was only after sniffing glue that we decorated throw pillows, hence they may not look the best. And thank you for offering to be my back up happy place. It is very healing for me to imagine myself punching you hard in the throat with a stapler.