Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My mammoversary

A lot has changed in a year. For one thing, my boobs
are smaller and perkier...
Exactly one year ago today, I opened a can of worms. A big, fat, malignant can of worms.

I remember the feeling of the blood draining from my face as the mammogram technician pointed to the suspicious areas on the screen. Maybe the radiologist, Dr. Solomon, might like additional images of those troublesome spots, she said. Yes, of course he would.

I remember how it felt to sit in that oddly placed, uncomfortable little chair in the hallway outside his office, my right leg twitching uncontrollably because the adrenaline was really pumping by that point. I felt like the bad kid, sitting outside the principal’s office as I watched a much older woman breeze out the door, another clear mammogram under her belt/bra.

I remember walking in as Dr. Solomon was talking to my ob-gyn, Dr. Charles, on the phone and hearing him say to her, “She’s very young...,” and realizing for the first time that, when it comes to breast cancer, those words probably don’t mean anything. I was nine years younger than my aunt, who, at 45, had been the youngest Connors woman to be diagnosed.

I remember Dr. Solomon pointing to various parts of my breasts on his computer screen and uttering the words "very suspicious" over and over again. I lost count. Everything about my breasts seemed to be suspect. I was harboring terrorists. Mammorists.

I remember Dr. Charles' voice on the other end of the line, reminding me to remain calm. It could be nothing. But if it was something, we likely caught it very early, and that’s why we do these tests.

I remember the look on the mammogram technician’s face as she walked me down the hall to the neighboring breast surgeon’s office to make an appointment for a consult. I had gone from having a routine baseline mammogram to a consult with a friggin’ breast surgeon. Yet, I actually felt bad for the technician. Even though I was the one with the shit test results and uncertain future, you could tell I had completely ruined her day and she took mammograms-gone-wild very personally.

What I don’t remember is the drive home, though I arrived there and no massive pileups or catastrophes were reported in my wake, so I guess I did OK.  I do remember trying several times to dial Sal’s work number but my fingers were suddenly like Vienna sausages and I kept messing up. Finally, I got it right. 
... I also found myself a "doer." Here I am actually engaging
in a group activity, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, back in June.
My friends and family have been a constant source of love and support for me.
Without them, this would have been a much more difficult journey.

“So, how did it go?” he asked, probably expecting me to crack some jokes about boobie pancakes or something.  
But there was only the sound of my labored breathing.

“How did it go?”

I struggled with my composure, but like my number-dialing, I failed. “I…I…uh…I… Can you clear your work schedule? I need to have a breast ultrasound,” I croaked out. I lost it at that point and sobbed about my worst fears coming true and all the suspicious spots on the mammogram.

I remember the big hug he gave me when he got home, because words were not needed and he was just as scared as I was.

I remember as I waited for my ultrasound and biopsy appointments, some older folks tried to be helpful, telling me their close encounters with suspicious mammograms, which ultimately showed benign growths. That's what I had, some harmless cysts, they said. But these people didn’t have my family history, hadn't lived their lives with a nagging suspicion that one day they'd develop breast cancer.  So although I appreciated them trying to ease my mind, I admittedly wanted to hurt them when they said stuff like that. Like, hurt real bad. Like the way people get hurt in the “Godfather.”  (On a side note, if you ever encounter someone going through a similar situation and you really haven’t been there, and you really want to keep all of your limbs, just offer your support, positive energy, prayers, whatever. Tread lightly when drawing parallels, lest your comforting words sound like you’re dismissing that person's legitimate fears“You know, my cat had suspicious spots on his x-ray but it turned out to be just some undigested Meow Mix!”)

I remember thinking, if all this testing shows what I think it's going to show, things would never be the same.

And I guess you can say the rest is history.


  1. I love everything about you Heather La Bruna. You are a rare, unique, funny and extremely talented person who won't ever let us wallow with you even for one second. Fuck Cancer!

    1. Thank you, Dianna! What can I say? I get through it all by surrounding myself with awesome people (present company included). <3

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