Saturday, October 7, 2006

When the Body is Ill

The Karen posted about breasts, and loving your breasts in light of breast cancer awareness month. She admits to linking breasts with femininity. To a certain extent, I agree. I also agree with her statement about loving your breasts because you don't know when you might lose them to cancer.

All women are at risk for breast cancer. The risk is significantly higher in Silicon Valley. (Sidenote: I had a psych professor at De Anza who was convinced that carrying your cell phone in your purse causes breast cancer and carrying it on your hip causes testicular cancer.) I heard a statistic that one in four women in Silicon Valley will get breast cancer. I don't know why, but I have a feeling that the data was skewed by the one jillion people who live here.

As far as my own personal experience, breast cancer runs in my family. When the doctor found the lump last August, my first thought was not "I'm going to lose my breast." It was, "I am going to die."

What I think is the most horrifying part of breast cancer is not the loss of the breasts, rather the positioning of the cancer. At the breast, it is right next to your heart and your lungs. Sick breasts are sad, and the horror of how close the illness is to vital organs is terrifying.

When the illness is so close to the core of your body, I have conceptualized it as destroying you from the center out. When I hear that someone's cancer has metastasized, I envision the cancer spreading like deeply embedded, barbed roots throughout the body. Roots that can't be pulled out.

Granted, in the case of my own lump scare, I have a penchant for melodrama. It's a little more understandable when you have a family history to back up the perceived melodrama/panic/paranoia. I was instructed to give up caffeine for a month, then come back and get re-checked. It turned out to be nothing.

It hits closer to home when you realize that you may not live to do all of the things you had hoped. Fortunately for me, I was okay. In light of my okay-ness, I say this:

I love my breasts. I think they look pretty nice, and they certainly help me get good service around the valley. You can ogle Karen's goodies (and you should, 'cause they rock), 'cause if I go braless and you can see my nipples through my shirt, you can be certain that I will be uncomfortable. That's my personal hangup, though, so don't take it as a judgment call.

It's just me not wanting to be eclipsed by my breasts.

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