Sunday, August 15, 2010

Meet the Girls

I'm a curvy woman.  I have always been a curvy woman and will always be a curvy woman and will always love my curves.  Or so I thought.

My relationship with "The Girls" began when I was 9.  My Grandmother (the survivor of all survivors) told me after school one day that that weekend "we had to go to Pennys and get me a training bra."  Outwardly, I was horrified.  Internally, thrilled.  "Really, really?  I get to be the first in my class in a bra?  Yes!"  Of course, I wasn't.  I tied H, we giggled together about our shared experience.

Fast forward to 6th grade.  I was already a size B and most girls were rocking the training bra, amateurs!  My best friend - bestie as the kids say now - accused me of stuffing my bra while brushing her teeth after lunch in the bathroom (braces!).  Determined to prove I was right (such a brat, always) I flashed her like a Mardi Gras regular.  I won!

That year brought the first of few conflicting emotions I had about the girls.  I loved them!  I loved having bigger boobs than the popular pretty girls (what do I have that they don't got?).  I liked that I was becoming a woman.  A woman, to me, meant so many things.  Mainly, intelligence, independence, success.  But the boys - oh the boys - they loved to snap my strap, and would compete to see who could unsnap it at the same time.  If only I knew then what I know now.

"The Girls" growth and potential just continued as I grew older.  And the more they grew, they more I loved them.  I used to knock (pun intended) fake boobies.  Until a friend (much more recently) put it into perspective for me:  women pay for my chest!  Thousands of women pay and undergo surgery to mock my look.  Big Breasted Woman in the modern fashion culture are what Madonna was to Bangles and Bangs in the 80's.  Rock on Girls.

I can't remember when I discovered I was high risk for breast cancer, I feel like I've always known..  Was it when I used to play with my grandmothers prosthetics? Was it when I visited Grandma Jo in the hospital with breast cancer? Was it when I realized everyone in my family has cancer?  Or was it as simple as my first Ob/Gyn appointment when they recommend I begin mammograms at 30 instead of 40?  I'm not sure when.  But I do know, I've spent a long time knowing I was high risk, and a part of that time assuming that meant more than a 12% chance, 1 in 5 maybe.

So it was without reluctance, or embarrassment, or worry when I went in for my first mammogram.  I was easily half the age of the other women in the waiting room.  I felt their looks, their concern.  It didn't phase me.  I was doing the only thing I could do:  take the appropriate steps for early detection.  When I received the follow up letter (my mammogram was clear) it recommended I join the High Risk program the hospital offered and make a follow up appointment.  At this point, I was overjoyed!  I was so happy to have chosen a hospital with a hands-on, pro-active approach.  I happily scheduled my follow up immediately.

That's when I met Heather, my Nurse Practitioner (NP).  She was great!  Young and fresh, answered all of my questions, spoke to me like a human and not like a medical professional.  I thought wow!  I am so lucky.  Heather wanted me to drop some weight and get to a healthy BMI - check!  Schedule an appointment with her alternating my annual appointment every 6 months - check!  Eat 5 servings of veggies a day - check!  Drink less - errr, we'll see:).

But when my new girlfriend Heather called me back later in the week - her news hurt to the core.  According to the Tyrer-Cuzick risk model, I have a 32.92% chance of getting breast cancer in my lifetime.  Heather wants me to alternate an MRI with my mammogram so I am being checked every 3 months for cancer.  I can do that.  What I couldn't do was grasp my gambling bets.  When I met Heather, I assumed I had a 1 in 5 chance of getting breast cancer and needed an annual mammogram.  Now I have a 1 in 3 chance, I need to be checked quarterly using 3 different methods, and should meet with a genetic counselor to be the first in my family to see if I have a BRCA mutation.  The only living survivor in my family doesn't speak to me.  I feel speechless, and I am not known for being short on words.

So, yeah I used to love my girls.  They're beautiful, they have identified me for so long, they are a serious part of my physical make up, and now they also bring a 1 in 3 chance of giving me a potentially deadly disease that has affected many people in all sides of my family, even claiming the lives of a few.  Its hard to love them as much now, but I'm trying.

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