The Girls (Maria Heck, Pt 1)

Several years ago, upon the eve of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I was personally made aware.  I noticed a lump, about the size of a pea, under my arm.  You may not know this about me, but I’m hyper-vigilant about my health.  I’m not a “wait and see” kind of a woman.  If I were that kind of a woman, I would have never got married, procreated, or aggressively passed a kidney stone the size and shape of the Liberty Bell.  My doctor sent me to a breast surgeon, and this led to a biopsy of three tumours.  I felt only one.  But, because things like to hide in the cushiness of my cozy fat cells, there were two more, shying away from the spotlight, coming out to play only under the glaring doppler activity of the ultrasound.

Well, a biopsy is no laughing matter.  It’s as serious as a heart attack.  Well, as serious as cancer, I suppose.  (Ladies, with the prospect of hosting a breast cancer free-for-all in our bodies, make sure your girls get a mammogram every year).  I digress.  I asked my husband to escort me to the biopsy party.  He does not enjoy being my accompanist, especially if it involves biological functions, anatomical issues or any type of diarrhea.  He agreed regardless, and we set-out for the pepto-pink-walled cocoon of “The Breast Center.” Yes, that is really the name posted by the entrance.

After the obligatory time in the waiting room, I was retrieved from my People magazine-induced catatonic state.  I begged them to take all the time they need!  To have a snack, read their horoscope, do their nails!  I was in no hurry to have my ta-tas on stage, awaiting their biopsy premier.  But I trudged along behind the kind and perky nurse, disrobed and hopped onto the sanitized, and very, very cold table.

We were off to the races and let the games begin.  Even without my glasses I was able to see the needle pierce the tumour on the screen.  I was ready for a close-up, but not that ready.  I felt weak-kneed and faint-hearted.  The nurses were as delightful and spunky as if they were playing Frisbee in the park.  To all you medical professionals out there: it is incredibly comforting and empowering to be spoken to in an intelligent and coherent manner during this production.  That is – not like you’re an imbecile with half the grey matter of a monkey.

Outwardly, I‘m sure I looked attentive. But, don’t be fooled! Inwardly, I was pretend-meditating, with all sort of crazy things going on in my head: ”Ummmm….I should have shaved my armpits.”  “Ummmm…I should not have had that Coolata on the way over.”  “Ummmm…I hope they can’t see that I forgot to zipper my jeans.”  “UMMMM…uhoh…I think I just left a little stinker.”  And on it went…

Just as I was about to wet my pants, it was over.  The questionable tissue was extracted and sent to a lab in Biopsy-ville.  I prayed that the pathologist was alert and attentive, and not Tik Tok-ing instead of analyzing my boob sample.  I received my instructions from the nurse.  “No golf or water aerobics for a month” stuck in my mind.  That tidbit will come in handy, I thought.  Before leaving, I was packed with steri-strips and a big ice pack.  I felt like a bruised margarita.  

The nurse handed-me off to my husband.  I’m certain, he had no idea what had just transpired.  “Guess what?” I shrieked brightly.  “The nurse said you can’t golf or participate in water aerobics for a month!”  “Tough break, huh?”  He looked to the nurse in confusion.  Before she could speak I shouted: “AND for ME….no washing, cooking, cleaning, heavy lifting or cleaning dog vomit from the rug for a month!”  “Look, I’m just to follow doctor’s orders.” The poor nurse looked around helplessly.  “AND one more thing!”  “The doctor said it would ease my recovery to have a pair of one carat bezel-set diamond earrings.”  “Who would have thought?”  “But whatever it takes to get Mama on the mend.” He escorted me from The Breast Center as I was shouting further instructions involving Mexican vacations and a tummy tuck.  Look, I’m not stupid.  Ask while there is pity, and you will receive. Or so I always thought.

Once home, I had to lie low.  About to fall sleep, I asked my son to grab a bag of frozen peas to replace the ice pack that had now melted.  (Thank God there is always that bag of frozen peas at the back of the freezer!)  Almost comatose, I reached for the peas and slid them under my arm pit before I slid into sleep.  I was awakened several hours later by the stench of bad meat.  Crap!  He had given me a bag filled with frozen chicken gizzards instead of peas. (Yes, a good Polish wife uses gizzards in her soup. Don’t judge me!).  My poor booby was soaked in chicken innards, and I was drenched in fury.  Thankfully, I fell into a dreamless (albeit stink), abyss for the next day and a half.

It’s been a week and I am feeling more like myself; whatever the hell that means.  I still cannot lift my arm, but it is a brilliant ploy to have children hoist the laundry basket and Swiffer the ceiling fan for me.  How long can I play this out?  About as long as it took my husband to figure out he can indeed play golf this month, but not water aerobics.  I don’t have the earrings yet!


*Reprinted from The Sunday Dispatch*

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