I’m not sure I can adequately describe how shocking the phrase, “Or you can have a mastectomy,” is to someone who has had a pretty great relationship with her boobs her whole life.
They never really bothered me, fed my babies, held my clothes up. All normal anatomical functions for healthy breasts. Even at 51, when they’re not so perky and hard to buy a comfortable bra for, I have no ill will towards my boobs. They don’t define me, but they certainly make it easier to find dropped M&M’s when I’m cramming my stress-eating face with chocolate.
“You have breast cancer.”
Boom. There it was, out in the open. Breast cancer. I knew it before he said it, but it’s my nature to bristle and posture instead of scream and cry.
“What? No way! I never order cancer here, it’s always undercooked. I’d like to see the manager, please. I’m not happy with this at all. I’ll definitely write a scathing Google review.”
I was babbling. I couldn’t stop. Fortunately, as a long-time patient, my doctor understands my weird emotional mechanisms and/or outbursts. He interjected before I could go on.
“We caught it early. It’s a small tumor. All preliminary indicators are good,” he smiled gently but didn’t laugh. This was clearly not a joke.
“Well that’s wonderful news! How splendid that I don’t have an unruly cancer who needs to stand in the corner, because guess what? My boobs don’t have corners! Let’s postpone removing that sebaceous cyst on my back, just in case you have to lop off my udders. I’d like a protruding bump on my upper torso somewhere, you know, for balance and all.”
Doc can appreciate rapier wit, but he’s also a busy man. He cut straight to the chase.
“You have choices. Breast conservation therapy is an option for you. Or, you can have a mastectomy. It’s up to you.”
Talk about a tough audience.
“I’ve always liked the thought of conserving historical property, may as well be my boobs.” Doc didn’t laugh, so I plowed on. “They’re 52 next year, if they were a car I could get classic tags for them. I never really wanted a mastectomy, I just don’t think I could find one to match the couch.”
He remained maddeningly calm, which is fine for doctoring but sucked the life from my comedy ego at this particular moment.
“I want you to take some time to make your decision. Whatever you decide, I will take care of you.”
It was a tender moment. I’m terrible at tender moments.
“I’ve decided I’d rather have a pet octopus. Hook it up, Doc.”
He finally laughed. I finally cried.