Thursday, June 24, 2010

Goin' On Vacation, Worrying About My Boobs

Pretty soon I will be spending most of my time in a swimsuit, and my thoughts, like any woman's, naturally turn to my bust. Or lack thereof, such as the case may be.

We females spend a lot of energy worrying about our boobs--be they too large or too small, too saggy or so wide-awake that they become weapons when there's a chill in the room. Entire episodes of Oprah's show have been devoted to flattering swimwear and bras that fit; clearly, this is the most important issue facing womankind today.

Every year as I pack up my swimsuits for the family vay-cay, I worry. Will these suits cover me appropriately? Will they lift and separate? Will they kick my humble cup size up a notch? If I get up the nerve to jump off a diving board, will I have an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction?

This year I have an added breast worry; at my annual MRI screening, the radiologist found a lump. I am leaving for the beach soon and will not know before I leave whether this is just a cyst or something uglier.

I spent 2 hours yesterday in various exam and waiting rooms of our local breast health center getting a diagnostic mammogram (which showed nothing; my girls don't like having their picture taken that way) and an ultrasound, which actually showed a second abnormal area. After talking to several nurses and a radiologist, I've been assured that my un-lovely lady lumps are probably fluid-filled cysts or normal, benign lymph nodes. But because there's a chance that they're not, and because I have a pesky personal history of cancer and radiation, the radiologist wants a needle biopsy to give him proof that what he's seeing is not breast cancer.

I knew this would come eventually. Three years ago when my radiation oncologist decided that my mammograms weren't clear enough, given that the radiation my girls soaked up makes them more prone to acting up and growing bad cells, I started having an annual breast MRI. MRIs show everything and the biggest downfall of that test is that many women get false positives and have benign growths removed unnecessarily. I was warned that in all likelihood I would get a call back after one that something irregular had popped up. But the alternative was to continue to get mammograms that the radiologist noted were "dense" and very hard to read (but as a a tech told me once, "dense" translates non-medically to "perky", so it's not all bad.)

But I had a streak going, and getting good news several years in a row has a way of making you think it could never happen to you. I went into this year's test like I always have; knowing that I would get that wonderful "everything came back normal" phone call right before our vacation like usual, which makes that first margarita on the beach taste so darn good.

This year, though, not so much.

The week after I come back from my shenanigans on the beach, I will be getting my first-ever needle biopsy and waiting for the results. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried despite the assurances from the radiologist that the abnormalities don't look malignant. I know first-hand that doctors can be very wrong. But I have a strong family history of benign cysts on my side (my mother has been down this same path half a dozen times since her early thirties). So I will be trying very hard to not let this worry ruin my time on the beach in our happy place.

Though Mr. Tequila and Mr. Lime may have to help me leave my worries behind.

This may be my last post for a while as we prepare to leave the K-Y behind for a little while. I will be back after some sun and fun; take care of yourselves, and rest assured that I will be doing my best to take care of myself...and my girls.

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