Dark Comedy

When I was deciding whether to go to film school in New York or Los Angeles, I did not choose New York, because at the time, I thought it was important that I didn’t wear black, drink coffee, smoke cigarettes or appreciate dark comedy.

Now, more than 20 years later, I have learned that humor in the darkest moments may be what heals us. I did not write during the three months of my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, because I write like a twelve year old when I am sad. But looking back, the things I remember most are not the fear or sense of loss, but moments that made me laugh.

Here are two from visits to the cosmetic surgeon (who is otherwise awesome). It is important to note that for both, my husband was in the room for moral support.

In the weeks between diagnosis and surgery, the cosmetic surgeon explained the options, and while pinching my stomach fat, said, ”there is enough fat here to make boobs, but they would be very small A’s. Smaller than you are now.”

Enough fat on the belly. Small boobs. Feeling super sexy. “Hi, honey!”

A few months later, IV in for the final implant surgery, the cosmetic surgeon stops by before we head down the hall.

Recall the husband in the room… again.

“Okay now, remember, we are working with the deformity in your chest wall….”

Chest deformity. Yep, that’s me. And don’t forget the belly fat.

Just the visual you want for your husband minutes before you go under.

And I know it only because the surgery went well that it cracks me up every time I think of it.

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Mammo and Me

I recently went for my annual mammogram. And I was reminded of the years prior to my first one and my desire to put it off.

When I was in my thirties, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a survivor. Past five years now. But I delayed.

When I was forty, the Year of the Mammo, I was pregnant and then nursing. So I delayed.

It took yet another year to schedule the appointment.

And why?

An outsider may suggest that I was afraid of the results. I was, but that’s not why I didn’t do it.

I delayed because I had heard that the mammogram itself hurts. Someone who had already had one said that it squeezes so hard on the breast that it causes pain. And I avoid pain at all costs.

The good news…..it doesn’t hurt at all. Not a moment of discomfort. And it takes only seconds to get the image that could save your life. Amazing. Magical. Science and technology at their best.

Yesterday, I walked into the Sally Jobe offices in a suburb of Denver, where my healthcare experience was exceptional. The efficient women who work there ushered me quickly through the paperwork, into a beautiful inner sanctum with private dressing rooms and warmed robes, and then a very professional technologist quickly helped me through the study and captured the images she needed.

Yes, she had to move my breasts into place – not what I’m used to. But she was quick, her hands weren’t cold, and she informed of what she was doing and what I needed to do in a professionally comforting manner. I was back in my car in twenty minutes. I didn’t even have time to look at a magazine! (Now that I have kids, I count on long waits in doctor offices so that I can read them. So I have to say, their efficiency at Sally Jobe was my only disappointment.)

We all know that mammograms can catch the disease before we can sense it. Not all the time. But if you follow through on your annual mammo, you have a much better chance of getting it before the disease is bigger and stronger than you are.

After my first mammo, I kept wishing that the foundations and healthcare organizations and celebrity spokeswomen had stressed how easy it is, how painless, and how comfortable healthcare professionals make you feel throughout the process. I, for one, would have gone sooner if I had known. If someone hadn’t told me it hurt.

Maybe these days, women are so bombarded with the pink ribbon and messaging around annual screenings that it is no longer an issue. Maybe it is so routine now that we don’t need to convince our thirty-nine year old friends to “make that appointment today.”

I, however, believe that young women can afford to listen one more time to one “old lady” who says it will be okay. Do it. Don’t delay. It does not hurt. You will see. You will know.