Mammo Whammy

I hate going to the Breast Center. I steel myself and try to be as matter-of-fact as if I’m getting my teeth cleaned or doing some other unpleasant medical chore.

Everyone there is nice. The décor features soft colors and flowery prints hang on the wall. I’m shown to a dressing room and instructed to put on a gown with the opening in the front.

But the presence of too many women, who are scared out of their wits, wondering what will become of themselves and their families, weighs on me.

I change into the raspberry gown and stash my clothes in the locker.

As I wait to be called, I wonder about the other women. Who will be lucky today? Who is waiting for a second mammogram because the radiologist found something suspicious? I avoid looking my companions in the eye. I have no wisdom and very little comfort to offer.

Inside the mammo room, the technician is pleasant and professional. But the whole process—baring myself, pushing my breast on the metal and plastic plate, allowing her to pull and stretch it into place as if it isn’t one of the most intimate parts of me—is dehumanizing.

I hold my breath, wait for the eye-watering mechanical squeeze. Then we repeat the process and I’m done. She says they’ll call if there’s a problem.

I nod and smile and pretend that I’m OK. I try not to let my mind form the sentence, “What if my luck has run out? What if this time is IT?”

The spirits of the women I’ve known with breast cancer travel with me as I get dressed, walk to the parking ramp and try hard not to think about the three biopsies I’ve already had.

I teeter on the brink of fear, but push that feeling as far back in my mind as possible. I know from experience that worrying won’t help.

I hate going to the Breast Center. But I think of Kim, Jane, Lisa and especially Kathy, and so I go. I’ve got a life to live and people to love. I can’t afford not to.

SSSHHHHHH SSSSSHHHH The Scale is in the Drawer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrystel came upstairs the other day and said she weighed 79 pounds. I didn’t pay any attention to this. We only have one scale in the house and that is in the basement bathroom. I just figured that she stepped on it after she was done showering.

She had never mentioned her weight before. She is ten-years-old and not overweight. But then she did it the next day and again the next.

I had it in my mind to inquire about her sudden interest in her weight, but then it slipped my mind. Neither Jody nor I ever talk about our bodies or other people’s bodies. We tell them … if you are hungry, eat; when you are full, stop eating. If you don’t like something, you don’t have to eat it. They have our permission to leave food on their plate.

We have intentionally not made food a focus in our house. Though, Jody and I, do have controls on the amount of soda the children drink by having cold water available in the refrigerator and as a general rule they don’t drink soda at home. We also don’t deny them candy, but they have to ask for it.

Our thought is … if candy isn’t taboo then there isn’t any reason for them to hoard or hide it. It is December 27 and they still have Halloween candy left.

Jody and I haven’t ever been concerned about Antonio and Crystel’s weight—in large part, because they regularly exercise at Tae Kwon Do.

One disagreement that Jody and I have had about the children eating cropped up when the kids were little. Antonio or Crystel said they were hungry, and Jody told them that they could wait until breakfast. I told her later, “You just need to know … if they ask me for something to eat, I don’t care what time it is, I am going to let them eat. I’m not ever going to send a kid to bed hungry.”  We head off any arguments by giving them a warning early enough in the evening … “If you want to eat, eat now.”

One day after school, when Crystel tells me, “I weigh 80 pounds,” I remember to ask her about it.

“Are the fourth graders talking about their weight at school?”

“No. Why?”

I tried again. “Are your classmates weighing themselves?”

“I don’t know. Why?”

Well, why the interest, I think to myself. I don’t want to make too big of deal about it, because then for sure it will become a big deal. That’s how it works with Crystel.

I tried one more time. “Do you tell classmates what your weight is? You know some classmates might be sensitive about their weight.”

“Who? Who is sensitive?”

December 27 - Two Dolphins pushing Crystel with their noses in Mexico.

December 27 – Two Dolphins pushing Crystel with their noses in Mexico.

Hmmm. She is just like her Mama Beth, answering a question with a question. I wasn’t getting anywhere fast.

“I don’t know,” I said. I needed to change the subject. I asked her the first thing that came to my mind, “Are you hungry?”

Jody and I don’t have glamour magazines lying around the house, and Crystel hasn’t started getting any teen magazines. So … maybe she is just curious about how she is changing from day to day.

Doesn’t matter. The scale is going in the drawer, in the cat room, by the litter box.