It Was Fine (Gross Medical Things to Follow)

The worst part was the part at the Breast Center. They put a guide wire in my boob and, apparently, I still had a huge, deep bruise from the biopsy, because they all walked over to make … Let me back up. They put the wire in you boob by having you sit in a chair while they put you in the mammogram machine, so you can’t move or see anything happening. And they took my glasses off, so I really couldn’t see anything. So, they have me in the machine and they all go over to check and see if they like the placement of the wire and I’m like “Um, something is dripping on me.”

They’re all, “Yep. It should stop in a second.” The nurse starts walking back over to me. “It’s still dripping,” I say. And it was blood! From where they had to go through that bruise. They made me look at the ceiling while they put pressure on it.

It didn’t hurt or anything but it was weird, because the drips felt cool. I would have thought anything that came right out of me would have been warm, but I guess not.

Then they put me in a wheelchair and rolled me to the surgical prep. I will say that the brief time that wire was in my boob was the most horrible time of the whole day. They want you to take good deep breaths.  But every time I breathed out deeply, I could feel that fucker. And sometimes, like once every couple of minutes, it just hurt like hell. You aren’t aware of just how much you move, just a little, in any given moment until you’re trying to hold really, really still.  It felt kind of like the pain of maybe scraping a metal file against your teeth? it wasn’t the worst pain I’ve ever been in, but it was definitely among the most uncomfortable pains. And I think part of it was that it was not predictable.

The people in surgical prep were as awesome as the breast people. They had trouble finding a vein to put an IV in so I tried to get them excited about the prospect of having a journal article about a woman who lives to 40 with no veins. They laughed. The anesthesia staff was really good, too. They took a long time with me talking about my medicines and my previous history. They said I was a prime candidate for feeling nauseous after surgery because I’m a young woman in good health who doesn’t smoke. I offered to take up smoking real quick if they wanted to hold off on the surgery for an hour or so. They declined as then they’d have to fill out the paperwork about how they talked to me about the importance of quitting.

Then I went to sleep and I dreamed that I was still in surgical prep but that someone was going to bring me some Mexican rice in a minute and then I woke up and it was done. And it felt so good to have that wire out of my body that it took me a moment to realize that I did feel a little nauseous and a little in pain–which they promptly cleared up.

I’m not allowed to drive for a week or to lift anything over 15 pounds. My boob is pretty swollen and I have to wear a bra all the time. But I will say this–I wish I’d worn a bra all the time after the initial biopsy, because it was easier to sleep. I thought for sure I’d wake up at some point because the boob would shift and there’d be pain, but no.

Anyway, the pain meds are kicking in and I’m not sure I can remain coherent. Chatty, yes. Coherent, no.


It’s a beautiful day out. Not at all as unbearable as they made it sound like it was going to be. I had lunch with nm, who has the ability to listen to you flounder on about something and then say “So, it’s x?” and you’re like “Yes, god, that’s exactly it. X is indeed what’s going on.”

My parents arrive tomorrow. I suppose I should clean the bathroom. The evil, evil bathroom.

No, no, no, no, no, nope, no, not that either, that’s a thing? No, no, no, no

I spent my morning getting registered at the hospital. I’m apparently in pretty good shape for a woman my age, which is a weird fact to consider. But I was all “no, no, no, no” to all the questions. Have I had this? Have I had that?

They took blood and piss and gave me special soap. And the paperwork for a living will.

I’m now drinking a throwback Mountain Dew and it is delicious.

I Feel Okay, But Not Okay

I can’t concentrate to read or write, really. Which is bumming me out. I have two thoughts–I don’t want to start anything before I see if I die on Thursday and Holy shit, what if I die on Thursday and my Nashville book isn’t done?

Both thoughts then send me on this spiral of “I could die on Thursday. Better go ahead and listen to so Old Crow Medicine Show until I’m really fucking Kurt-Vonnegut-level depressed at the state of the world.”

So, instead, I’ve just been crocheting like a motherfucker, which just lets my mind dwell on counting a lot and not thinking about death.

So, I have two observations about that–it sure is easier to learn to do the broomstick lace stitch on Red Heart Yarn (I think because the strands stay so distinct from each other?) and with three loops per stitch, not five.

Ha, you know, I kind of feel like I’m in some kind of perpetual waiting room. Not doing anything, so I’m not busy when I need to go do something.

Anyway, that’s my life lately. But Thursday is the day. So, there it is.

Noisy Bra

Okay, I admit, since the biopsy, I have been wearing my most comfortable bra like some kind of durable shield against trauma and breast-related ow-ies. But, finally, it was just disgusting. A bra is not made to be worn for twelve days straight. Some of which involved bleeding.

So, I’ve been going through my regular rotation of regular bras again and, today, I am wearing one that makes noises. I don’t remember it ever making noises before, though, so… I don’t know. But it creaks and groans when I stand up or sit down, like a bridge bearing enormous weight might scream as iron strains against iron.

I’m kind of curious/embarrassed to know if anyone else has noticed. But, seriously, how could they not? And what is making the noises? Is it the boning rubbing against the cloth? Is it about to give way? is it going to hurt when it gives way?

I once, when I first started working here, was standing in the production manager’s office in front of the big glass window and there was a mighty pop and then I felt a pain right under my boob. I looked down, and then put my hand where the pain was, and I was bleeding. I thought, “My god, I’ve been shot by a sniper, at work. How weird is that? Do those fools not know Planned Parenthood isn’t in this building anymore?”

But then I didn’t see a bullet hole in the window.

And I realized that the underwire on my bra had snapped and I hadn’t been shot so much as stabbed.

I guess I’m just a little fearful about whether we’re about to replicate that with this noisy thing.

Won’t You Stay and Keep Anna Lee Company?

It’s weird to think about how we’re all just a shaky collection of agreed-upon stories. I was reading the other day about a study where researchers convinced college students that they’d been molested (licked in an unfriendly manner and not let go) by Pluto while at one of the Disney themeparks, even though it hadn’t actually happened. They were able to convince a sizable minority of the people participating in the study to remember it happening.

They made it real for them.

I sometimes wonder how much of my own life is fake, misremembered or misconstrued events that take on meaning to me, or things that seemed trivial at the time that become oversized in importance later. How often do I think something was a turning point in retrospect but, at the time, if there was a curve, it was so gradual as to be unnoticeable.

I’ve been staring at “The Oath of the Thirty-Three Orientals” for three days now. Nothing I’ve read of the landing of the thirty-three easterners would indicate that they should have landed at a place with a building and yet, if you look at the painting, you see that many of them are standing in the shadow of some rectangle with, maybe, a steeple of some sort? perhaps a church? Something casts a shadow.

That’s how I feel about the past–that I’m trying to determine what’s there based on where and when I’m in the dark.

At Full Frazzle

So, they’re going to stick a guide wire in my breast first. And then I’ll go to surgery.

I am low about it. I’m not sure why, but I both can’t talk about anything else and am so tired of talking about it. Everyone has the same questions and I only have the same answers, which means that I feel like my day is just me repeating things that I know are going to alarm people who care about me. And then I feel like I have to manage their alarm. But I also am alarmed.

And I feel kind of guilty because it’s not the worst news, right? It’s just a fast-growing, relentless tumor that’s going to require them to take a big halo of perfectly good tissue with it so that it doesn’t come back. But it could be worse. So, who am I to feel scared and uncertain?

I get so angry when people say they’re going to pray for me. I have to extricate myself from the conversation as quickly as I can, because I just want to yell “Fuck you, for knowing the right thing to do and say.” And then I feel like an asshole for even thinking it. But I’m jealous of and offended by the certainty.

When I texted my uncle to tell him that the biopsy was that it wasn’t cancer, he texted me back, “God is good.” And so I feel a little like I’m inconveniencing people by not being fine since I had good news.

And I feel like there’s something wrong with me because I can recognize a whole mountain of support from good people who love me and who I love, but today I experience it as overwhelming and it’s making me more scared. I want to turn off my phone and hide from everyone.

Though admitting it makes me feel better.


I don’t have cancer! I have a fibroadenoma, which is nothing to worry about and a phyllodes tumor, which is a fast-growing tumor that can, apparently, grow to ridiculous size and, since I can’t possibly find a place that will make me a three-cup bra, I’ll probably eventually have to have it taken out. I am waiting to hear from my primary care physician about a surgical consult and we’ll go from there.

On a Scale of 0 to 10

Sorry. I should have updated here yesterday, but I was just feeling scattered and overwhelmed. I had to alternate all day 15 minutes on the ice pack 15 minutes off. And today I still feel like my boob is the wrong shape and in my way.

So, anyway, it was cool in that I got to watch it happening on the ultrasound and it’s basically like this–imagine that my boob is a large Jello salad, shot through with thin ribbons of Cool Whip. They basically press on the side of the salad trying to see if they can get a glimpse of a pea that wasn’t supposed to be in the salad, but, hey, you’re making Jello salad and tuna salad on the same counter, shit happen. So, they press and a pea shows itself and they stick a long needle in and click click click grab samples of the pea. So, that’s how the first one went. Took a while to even find said pea.

But then they move on to the second one, which is over closer to my arm, and they press a little and what comes to the surface of the salad is not a little pea, but a great marble. Not a regular marble but an old fashioned shooter. A sun around which other marbles rotate. Oh, god, this is like the Inception of metaphors here. But it was huge. Is huge. And I realize that the ultrasound is magnified, but I mean, even just comparing it to the other thing. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time, except “Wow, that’s really easy to see.” But all afternoon, I was like, there’s a huge thing in my boob. And I’m putting ice on it.

All of this implies that it has more color than it does. Maybe it’s more like you’re looking at a piece of dark gray marble with light gray lines running through it and you come across these great holes. That’s more the impression that you get, that you’re looking into a black hole. It’s just this spot where there’s nothing that looks anything like the surrounding tissue.

Anyway, they leave a little titanium marker in the black spots so they can find them again. Then they tell you they’re going to do another mammogram and you think “I can’t live through another mammogram, especially not after you just shot needles into my boobs all morning, because that sucker is going to hurt, I don’t care how gentle you are.” But it doesn’t really hurt.

Not even now. Fingers crossed. On a scale of 0 to 10 of pain, I’ve been at a 0 or a .5 since the procedure and extra strength Tylenol has dealt with that just fine.

But on a discomfort scale, I would say that I’m at a 3 or 4. It’s tender. The bottom side, where they did nothing, itches, I assume just because my body finds it funny to see me attempt to gently itch my boob. I feel kind of like throwing up any time I think about the fact that I’m not going to know until Tuesday what this is. And I’m terrified of it getting infected or opening back up, even though rationally, I know none of those things are going to happen. I want to carry my boob around like a small kitten, just tucked in my elbow, for safe keeping.

Anyway, I am glad there’s the term “cancer scare” just because this time period feels like a big, traumatic thing and I’m glad to have some phrase, even if everything turns out to be benign, that acknowledges that this part fucking sucks, too.

Laugh With Me

My dad believes my dirty bathroom is the cause of all this. He wants me to recaulk immediately. Because, yes, aside from working and going through the medical ringer, I totally have time to recaulk my evil, time-traveling bathroom.

My uncle B. is going to pray for me, even though I’m a Democrat. At least he updated me on all the family cancers.

My aunt isn’t sure whether to tell my cousins, so she asked my mom for permission. Because my mom controls the spigots of information. Perhaps if we also put my mom in control of the spigots of evil, my bathroom wouldn’t be time traveling to try to kill me.

Also, my body is a total dick. I can’t have any pain killers except Tylenol, which doesn’t always work super-great for me, and I just had my last period two weeks ago, but my body was like “Oh, are you under a lot of stress? Can’t take the usual pain killers? How about some cramps?!” And then I assume my body gleefully danced around my evil bathroom while they both laughed like evil villains. Evilly.

A Decided Lack of Ghosts

I think the thing I find most confusing about this is that I feel fine. Even the other times that they were like “Oh, it could be cancer,” in one case, I was randomly and spontaneously bleeding from every orifice and so clearly something was wrong, and in the other case, I was having trouble breathing and thought I might have pneumonia again.

But this time? I feel fine. I can’t even feel the inch-diameter thing in there they want to biopsy. If I just check in with myself, I feel fine.

And it’s such bullshit. If my body is my house, it is haunted. It has a spirit in it that wanders around crocheting afghans, writing ghost stories, and watching TV. This spirit feels like she fully inhabits the house, like there’s no closet or toe or basement or rib that is off-limits to her. So, how can there be anything potentially bad in the house without the spirit knowing it? How did I somehow not notice the marble of shit in my boob? How, even now, can I not sense it?

I have a better sense, when I step into my kitchen, whether the Butcher is somewhere in the house even if I can’t see or hear him, than I do about this thing.

Which, I guess, is the other hard part. My parents want to come down and… do what? As of yet, I don’t need people to do my dishes or bring us food. In fact, last night, I made this fantastic thing that was pretending to be a pilaf. I mean, I guess it was a pilaf, just at the general level of being rice cooked in stock with spices, but I highly doubt that there’s any real pilaf recipe that calls for asparagus and cashews, and yet, dear readers, I tell you, it was pretty damn good.

I don’t really need anything yet. I don’t feel bad. I’m just frightened and upset, but that’s not really something I need help with. So, I don’t know. It’s just weird.

Eyes Like Planets, Boobs Like Oceans

One interesting thing is the ways in which all these medical procedures reveal your body to be a collection of landscapes. They shoot pictures of the interiors of your eyeballs and you experience yourself as having these vase hollow yellow and red worlds in your face. They ultrasound your boobs and the pictures you see on the screen look like small seas, waves of fat and ductwork (I assume) rolling toward you and disappearing from view. It’s very beautiful.

My phone call to my parents went disastrously and so, even though everybody who texted me was like “Call if you need to talk” I just didn’t want to talk to anyone else. It’s mostly just that my mom started the phone conversation with “How was your day?” and then, after I was like “Did you not get my text? Not great.” launched into all the reasons I was grateful that they were able to do these tests that would all show that this was nothing. Which, yes, I suppose I am grateful for, but we don’t know yet that it’s nothing and I needed a minute to just be terrified and to talk through a plan of action. But it hit me like bricks that she needed me to comfort her and I just started crying hysterically, begging her to stop talking.

And I feel bad about that, because she just handed the phone over to my dad and I didn’t mean to upset her and really, really didn’t want to upset her. But I can’t tell you how upsetting it is to get terrible news and to have to deliver terrible news and have the person you’re telling respond as if you’ve just told them not terrible news.

So, that was something of a disaster.

And it also meant that I just couldn’t hear more about how it was going to be all right, because it was too close to my mom acting like everything was all right.

Anyway, I have to say something to the folks at work today so that my pending erratic schedule makes sense. And I have to fill out a bunch of paperwork.

I’m always amazed when people handle this shit with grace. Just assume from here on out until there’s some resolution that I’m either crying or about to cry. I’m not even going to fucking try to have my shit together. My shit is going to be thrown all over the sidewalk like the aftermath of an ugly breakup. Some of my shit is going to be three blocks away. You’ll see my shit in messy piles, people tripping all in it, it sticking to strangers’ shoes.

My dad said, “You know I’ve seen a lot of this with my parishioners and I can tell you that the one thing that makes a difference is a positive attitude.”

And I laughed and said, “Well, then, we’re in trouble.”

Life is a Lot Like this Train

On my way to work this morning, I was stopped by the train by Ft. Negley. And then the train stopped. And I thought, yep, this is how things work. They move slowly. They stop. They move slowly again. Eventually, they’re gone.

And then I laughed, because that’s like, so not profound. Like, if ever they’re looking for a really mediocre thinker, to showcase why, say, Buddha or Sun Tzu still get quoted, I will be their contrasting point.

This week has just been… ugh… But also nice. So, my emotions are confused.

“Areas of Concern”

Whew, I already hate that fucking phrase and I just heard it once, five minutes ago. So, yesterday, the technician told me that they were most likely going to call me back in because it’s my first mammogram and they don’t have anything to compare how my boobs look now except to each other. It’s very easy to be nonchalant about that until they call and are all “You have some ‘areas of concern’ we’d like to get a closer look at.”

It just lands with a thud. And then you schedule the appointment, text your brother, and wonder if you should text your mom. And then you realize you started this post fifteen minutes ago, but somewhere between this paragraph and the last you went somewhere else. When you got back, your face was wet.

Good Ideas

I am excited about stuff I can’t yet discuss. But it’s fun to talk to someone and hear good ideas and just feel like “Yep, things are happening.”

Today is my boob squish. I’m nervous but curious. They told me not to use any lotion on my boobs and I was just like “Who lotions their boobs? To what end?!” and then I remembered that, as far as most of this stuff goes, I have no idea how normal people treat their bodies. I don’t feel like touching me is like touching an elephant, either. But who knows? Maybe I am secretly dry and cracked and just haven’t bothered to notice.


I sent out everything I needed to send out. I processed my feelings on the Nashville book–paralyzing fear that I have no business doing this and I’m going to miss out on people who should be in the book because I don’t know enough coupled with it being really hard to write about people who are really sick fucks, but not acknowledged as such. Not that it’s easy to write about sick fucks in general, but there’s something easier about a sick fuck everyone agrees is a sick fuck.

I had a beer Saturday night (Tennessee Brew Works–hit them up for deliciousness), so I spent most of yesterday feeling like shit, which sucked because I had a lot to do. I just need to accept that my drinking days are over, but it’s so stupid. One beer and I’m hung-over? WTF?

And I feel pretty sure I don’t have enough white yarn to finish the afghan, which is a little frustrating, since I got so much! Anyway, I’m trying to decide if I want to do some kind of rainbow-ish effect–to give the afghan diagonal stripes–or if I just want to go with a random pattern to the colors. I’m still probably a couple of weeks away from needing to decide, though.

The More Things Stay The Same

I have a lot of things swirling in my brain that I wish I could nail down enough to talk about. I start to think that I’m an easy person not to know. Don’t get me wrong. I think I’m also an easy person to know and I’m very lucky to have dear friends.

But what I mean is that I have this defense mechanism that’s like, “Just don’t participate in this and it will be over as soon as possible and then you can get on with your day.” Whatever thing “it” is. Like, if I just emotionally stand very still, the disturbing things won’t be able to see me and they’ll pass me by. There’s “fight” and
“flight,” but I have “freeze.”

“Freeze” does not work out for me so well in many ways. But the main way it lets me down is, I think, that, since I’m attempting to not provoke people, I’m not giving off the same visual and audio clues they get from most people.

I don’t know. I just sometimes feel like I have no idea what’s going on in my own life because the people who are attempting to interact with me seem to have constructed some version of me that I can’t recognize.

My co-worker said to me the other day that she thinks people mistake my niceness for someone easy to roll over.

But the thing is that, in a way, I do feel easy to roll over. (Not in the instance we were talking about but not into the instances that are on my mind.) Like I’ve somehow made myself deliberately easy to roll over so that things I don’t want to deal with just roll on down the road away from me.

But, of course, people who roll over you, once they find out they can do it, keep coming back.

Woke Up This Morning

Today was the first day since the day of my birthday party that I didn’t wake up feeling like utter shit. I’m still a little stuffy, but I actually felt okay when I woke up. I don’t know what the hell that thing was, but it’s enough to make me revise my “but I’m feeling better today so I don’t need to go to the doctor” rule, since every day, I did feel better, but the hill I was climbing into feeling good was unbearably tall.

I also went to the gynecologist yesterday and we were talking about PCOS (as you do) and she was just like “Yeah, I spend a lot of time reading the literature on metabolic issues and endocrine disorders and, basically, the surest sign of a quack is someone who says ‘We know…’ anything about this stuff. We have a lot of plausible theories that seem to hold true for most of our patients, but there are enough exceptions in any situation to call any theory about how our bodies do this stuff into question. It’s still a lot of mystery that we’re trying to pass off as certainty. And that’s not fair to patients.”

We also watched “Escape from Tomorrow,” which is interesting in that it was filmed at the Disney themeparks without Disney’s permission, but is otherwise a terrible, confusing mess. It’s a crude guide, but there comes a point in any horror movie when you can tell it’s gone off the rails because just as you think “What the hell is going on here?” you see boobs. It’s the director’s way of signaling that he also doesn’t know what the hell is going on here, but he hopes you won’t notice, because, hey, look at how nice these tits are. “Escape from Tomorrow” resorts to the tits trick twice. That’s pretty much all I can say about it. If you understood that movie, please explain it to me.

Work Things

I spent much of the weekend still feeling puny and reading our upcoming Perry Wallace biography for work. I’m really proud to be working on this book, but man, it’s a hard read. It goes pretty much exactly how you expect it to go, except with Wallace pointing out every step of the way what’s going wrong and why and Vanderbilt turning a blind eye.

I’m wondering if there’s a way to pitch it to Civil Rights classes, if only because it’s really interesting to see a guy on the ground in the late ’60s who’s heard first-hand King and Carmichael trying to take what he finds useful from both approaches and crafting some way that works for him. At least in the history classes I took, it was more set up like an either-or choice. You went Martin or Malcolm. But, of course, living through it, you must have gone both at one point or another. It’s just the human response.

But I came away feeling like I wasn’t sure how Vanderbilt could ever reckon with this history. What would a resolution to “we fucked up” really look like? I admit, I was both glad to see that Vanderbilt has been making amends and feeling like those amends just don’t cut it. And I think that’s the truth of the matter, and I’m not sure there’s any way to reconcile that truth.