Scare puts 'awareness' in Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Please stop reading this if you are not interested in my breasts. (Now there's a topic sentence that might not make it past an editor.)

I suppose I have always been very interested in my breasts. As a preteen, I anticipated their arrival, and it turns out that — like most awesome things in my life — they showed up late. It took me a while to get used to them, but pretty soon I was letting them do their thing, which is exist on my front and command a weird sort of attention, as if they were disconnected from the rest of me. Before having breasts, for example, no one really stared at my ears or eyebrows, so I had no way of comprehending this strange new focus on my torso. I had to adjust to the fact that my breasts were a source of oft-times unwanted attention.

I'm going to skip over all sorts of developments with my breasts, so that you can continue reading this to your children. I'm doing my darndest to demystify the breasts here.

But at some point in many women's lives, breasts become merely a convenient food source for their infants. So we women adjust to the fact that our breasts have become practical things.

And I'd like to point out that both men and women have breasts — and that they are composed of fatty tissue, like the stuff around your kneecaps, although no one makes a big deal about those areas. No companies offer push-up lace kneecap supports, or advertise swimsuits with kneecap halters. No magazines feature the breast-like dangling tissue on the upper arms as sexy, either, though it might be kind of nice if that region were considered alluring. Millions of women all over the globe would simply have to clap their hands over their heads to transfix their men. I digress.

Well, I am sorry to report to most of you now, as Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to an end, that there may come a time when your breasts will become a source of fear. For me, that time arrived last week.

I always have my yearly mammograms, because I so look forward to them. It's sort of like a dream where you are sauntering up to a tropical island bar where all the bartenders are Johnny Depps, and everyone is naked from the waist up, but the bar is really high, and you have to stand on your tiptoes to order a martini. The only difference is you are sauntering up to a huge gray machine in a chilly room with a technician you've just met, and you're wearing half a hospital gown. The machine is really awkwardly situated, so you have to lean forward and hold your breath while your breast is squeezed between two Plexiglas panes and X-rayed.

Usually you just go home and wait for this particular dream to be realized again in about a year.

But sometimes you get called back for additional testing because there is an area of concern, or a "non-standard finding." We women have a lot of light, euphemistic names for this situation, saying that we had a "recall" or a "do-over." But when we are sitting alone in that room, waiting for the technician, we are looking around for God.

When you are 20 or 30, you may know of someone who has had breast cancer. When you are 40 or 50, you can likely name more than five people you know personally who have had the disease — some who have recovered, some who have not.

Turns out, so far, I am one of the lucky ones; I get to return in another six months to have a few more pictures taken.

But I write this now because I will not soon forget how I felt last week and how I prayed for myself and every woman I know who has been there, in that cheerless cold room devoid of a martini and Johnny Depp.

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