Three weeks ago, when the threat of breast cancer entered my life, I decided to hang up my blogging hat for a breather. Frankly, I felt everything but witty.
The words, large mass on left breast, left me paralyzed with fear. Me, the woman who shrinks from nothing. I panicked.
Years ago when this happened, I remember praying to God that I not lose my breast. This time I prayed that I not lose my life. What a difference a few years make on a mindset.
I know I’m no spring chicken, but I have always counted on having a lot of living left to do. I share my life with a wonderful man whom I hoped to grow old with. Very old. Cranky old.
We have big plans for a big life left to be lived out. This put a huge chink in our future’s armor.
There were ultra-sounds, mammograms, biopsies and doctor appointments. There was also a palpable amount of fear. For the both of us.
After all, the risk of breast cancer for a woman who is 30 years old is 1 in 277. Those numbers are bad enough, but when you do the same risk comparison for a women of 61 those numbers jump up to 1 in 28. I’ve never been a fan of shrinking odds.
It is also true that in the United States, breast cancer is diagnosed more often in white women than in African American/black, Hispanic/Latina, Asian/Pacific Islander, or American Indian/Alaska Native women. For those of you who haven’t noticed, I’m about as pasty white as they come.
I have also used hormone replacement therapy for nearly 5 years. Another thing that puts me at higher risk. It gets worse. Overweight women are more prone to breast cancer. Blast this extra poundage and the Tommy’s burgers that helped me get there!
It felt like the writing was on the wall and I could literally hear the clock ticking.
Suddenly my life was just as likely to have an early termination date as it was to go on another 30 years. Try getting a good night’s sleep with that on your mind!
I got to thinking; why do breasts matter so much to women, and why do we worry about what our men will think of us if we lose one?
Breasts often portray our sensual side. And the attraction to men can never be denied. What is sexy about a one-breasted woman? The answer would be: plenty!
I realized that I was with a man who didn’t give a rat’s butt about whether I had one breast or two. That made me feel much better about my intelligence in selecting my forever partner as well as my own comfort in knowing that my sexuality wasn’t located in my breasts. My sensuality is in my mind, imagination, vulnerability, wanting and sharing of unabashed bliss. It is fiercely attached to my loyalty and the love of my man. While I appreciate having them, I don’t need breasts for any of that.
I concluded that if losing my breast could save my life, I would be a very lucky girl. Now all I needed was a little bit of that glorious luck.
As it happened, it found me. I was cleared of cancer. I was (this time), one of the lucky ones.
It left me with the appreciation of how beautiful my breasts are to me. I love them and appreciate their part in the sculpturing of my body. To lose one would be like losing a family member. It would hurt and I would cry. But if its loss meant that I could live a full and happy life, the loss no longer felt heavy.
And so, I get to keep all of me this time around. I am grateful for that. But even more grateful for the wisdom that was thrown my way by this life detour.
Life is worth everything. A breast is worth much less than that.
Check out this information on breast cancer from the National Breast Cancer Organization. It just might save your life.
Nanette ~ AMomBlog - I’ve had that scare myself and so has my sister most recently. It’s frightening to say the least.
I’m glad all turned out well for you.
Teresa Kindred - Great article! I’m sharing this and hope to speak with you about something. Teresa from NanaHood.com
Mary La Fornara Gutierrez - Glad everything is good with you.
Scott Morgan - Sorry about the scare, love, but at least as far as I’m concerned, the number and size of breasts doesn’t make or diminish anyone. Stay healthy.
Tammy - Thanks, Nanette. The odds say that we will all be faced with this scare at one point or another. Some will be luckier than others. Breath holding moments are the best and the worst.
Cheryl Nicholl - Holy SHit. Let me process this……. ………… Oh my dear dear friend. My heart breaks that you had to go through this. I’m so glad you had your man there with you, but I’m reeling. The thought of you….. I just can’t say it. I’m SO HAPPY you’re OKAY. Dear God take care of Tammy. *head in hands*
Jennifer Wagner - While I am petrified of getting breast or any kind of cancer, I’d give up my breast in a heartbeat. If it gave me even a 1% better chance of living I would give it up. If it meant forgoing chemo, I’d give it up. I definitely don’t have any attachment to them that would affect my decision.
In fact, I would want a double mastectomy so that I wouldn’t be able to get it later in the other breast. And wouldn’t it be nice, after wearing underwire bras my entire life, to go braless. It would be the most freeing feeling in the world.
Everyone has their own reasons for their decisions, but for me, a life is so much more important than a body part that I never cared about nearly as much as men do.
Rosemary Lynn Hoffman - I too had a recent scare. However, I decided that if the biopsy proved to be positive, I would have both breasts removed. Too many female relatives have succumbed to the disease, including my mother when she was only 49. Fortunately, my biopsy was benign, but I will never quit doing my monthly self-checks ( which is how I found this one) and hope to get my insurance to pay for my BRACA test. We all must be diligent. That includes men!
Maureen Musgrave Armentrout - I’m so sorry you had such a scare!! And very grateful that you are okay!! HUGS!
Anne Aria Tichauer - Excellent article!
Stacey JoyEleven Johnson - Ohhhhh what a beautiful story and such a wonderful happy ending to a fresh new beginning! My closest cousin lost both breasts almost a year ago and has not cared one bit because her life was spared. I will send you her short link about her journey. Love you and so thankful you’re well!
Lisha Fink - I had the same perspective with my skin cancer diagnosis. May we all grow cranky old.
Kathleen O'Donnell - What a beautiful post. Many good vibes to you and your long life, still to be led. Hugs.
Tammy - Thanks so much, Kathleen. From your mouth …. to God’s ears!
Tammy - Cranky old would be a VERY good thing, Lisha. Let us all get there together! Appreciate the read and the comment.
Tammy - I couldn’t have said it better myself, Jennifer. Life is worth everything. I was far less concerned about the breast as I was about the pain and the dying. Only natural I suppose. Mostly, I simply couldn’t find one single piece of me that was willing die sooner that I should. So happy to have you here!
Tammy - Thanks, Scott. How lovely to hear such a great perspective. Thanks for that! So happy to know you are still lingering out there on the other side of my blog. Oh, happy day! Very few things take me away from my posts. This was clearly one of them. Fear does quite a number on you. NOT awesome. Let’s connect via email. Would love to hear how you are doing, my friend.
Vicki - Dearest Tammy,
First and foremost so happy the results came back benign. Can’t imagine life without you!
I was diagnosed 23 years ago with breast cancer and although I was a “breasty kind of gal” I too would prefer living over keeping my breasts. It was really an easy choice and I thank G-d every day for giving me a “wink” and telling me everything would turn out fine. I also did the genetic testing (mainly for my daughter) and that was negative.
The best is yet to come!
Laura Lee Carter - WOW! So glad you are still kicking Tammy! My Mom had a radical mastectomy at age 37 and she’s still kicking butt at 81!
Such a lot to think about… we seem to lose track of the fact that anything could happen at any time to any one of us.
Carol Cassara - Girlfriend, I am mighty relieved at your outcome. Iknow all too well that fear, having gone through it more than 20 years ago. But I was young and stupid and I would be way more terrified now. Blessings to you, your perspective and a toast to your continuing good health. oxxo
Anne Aria Tichauer - You are a person who is full of positive vibes. You bring fun and joy to all, especially me. I can understand your feelings. God bless you.
Kim Tackett - Tammy, this is my favorite piece you’ve written. In fact, it’s my favorite piece that I have read in ages. So happy for your outcome, and so grateful for your perspective. You’re right, of course. And life is good (so are breasts, but life is better).
Tana Bevan - Dear, Sweet, Wise, Witty, Tammy, soooooooooooo glad you and your special someone will be able to grow old and cranky together! Clapping & cheering the Universe was kind to you. You are a wonderful woman!
Tammy - Thanks, sweet Vicki. There is no greater fear than that of the possibility of losing your life. Compared to that, breasts are a big yawn. Who knew?! I’m so very grateful for you. What a bright light you are to all who know you!
Tammy - Laura Lee, I’m happy to be still kicking! We always think things like this happen to other people. It only stands to reason that we are bound to be “the other people” at some point in time. Something to ponder. So appreciate the read and the comment!
Tammy - Carol, so wonderful hearing from you and reading all about your travels to your home land of Sicily. Awesome read! The Big C gets many people. The word alone stopped me in my tracks for at least 3 days. Fear is a liar. I have to remember….to remember THAT!
Tammy - Oh, Anne, I’m THRILLED to see you comment here. Thank you for that! And for the very lovely and loving words you shared. I feel the very same about you, my friend. xoxo
Tammy - Kim, you made me smile. Big. Thanks for that lovely compliment. Let us hope we have many years to come to share all of our happiness, angst and general bitching! I adore reading your blog, especially today’s love of orange!
Tammy - Thanks, sweet Tana, for your kindness. Good to “be back”, so to speak. Fear is a cliff waiting to be jumped from. Not the best place for any heart to be. Fortunately, in real life, with real people and real love, fear is just vapor. So happy to have you here, my friend. Thanks for that.
Ruth Curran - Oh Tammy so I get this. My mom had her first encounter with breast cancer when I was 11 and just starting to develop.No exaggeration, I have, since then, been waiting for the other shoe (or breast… I guess) to drop. Slightly different angle and issues. I love this piece, your perspective, and your willingness to speak frankly! Thank you!
Laurie Braddy - Hi Tammy, I’m so sorry to read that you have been dealing with all that. I know that even waiting for results of cancer screening can be excruciating. I’m relieved for you that the results were negative. I am confident that you will have every opportunity to live that full and happy life that you deserve. My love to you both.
Tammy - Thanks, Laurie. I no longer have the confidence that vast years ahead are a sure thing. Maybe that’s a good thing. I take nothing for granted anymore. I will live with the biggest of gusto, all that is mine to live. And that is a good feeling. Love you both right back!
Tammy - Ruth, I totally get it. Heredity has a lot to do with things. Cancer use to be a death sentence. I know that it isn’t anymore. But no matter how you look at it, cancer is life threat and a surety of physical misery beyond words. My breath gets stuck in my throat just thinking about it. As my 84 year old aunt always tells me: we are just visitors here. Thank you truly for the read and the comment. I appreciate them both very much.
Lois Alter Mark - Oh, Tammy, wow. Thanks for sharing your story which, thankfully, has a happy ending. May we all stay lucky.
mel glenn - Dear Tammy,
What a beautifully brave column. The fear must have been something you could breathe.I, too, had a cancer scare, but like you, I “escaped” and feel very grateful. I have to remember how grateful I feel.
Cancer scares have also struck my family, so I appreciate
your honest rendering of your feelings. We can always count on you to “tell it like it is.” A serious, worthwhile piece.
Cynthia Greene Jordan - Oh dear lord…Tammy, I had no idea you were going through this. I am elated that things turned out positive and concur that being alive is more important than a body part or an organ. XO…BNIALW
Jeffrey Davidson - First and foremost, you are free and clear. YEAH!! I am very happy for you.
WITTY or not, I think that you wrote your feelings so beautifully and expressed what is really important, losing a breast but saving your life.
The fortunate situation to be with someone who loves you and is by your side regardless can not help but make you feel special, warm and fuzzy inside.
Once again, kudos to your thoughts, emotions and your ability to express them so beautifully.
Tammy - Hi Mel, it doesn’t surprise me that you’ve been hit by the dreaded possibility. It seems if you live long enough, your reward is to be poked in the ribs by cancer or it’s possible visitation. Part of my fear is the memory of watching my father struggle to beat a non beatable foe. It was a brutal end for a man that deserved much more. There by the grace of God go I. Thank you, friend, for the read and the comment. Happy are here with me on this.
Doreen Mcgettigan - I am SO glad you are okay. I agree with you it is getting scarier the older we get but I am with you, if it will save my life take it! Did I say how happy I am that you are okay!
Joan Cooper - Your way with words never ceases to amaze me. As to ..’why are breasts so important to women’… well – because they represent the giving of life – nursing the baby – and the power that goes along with this. That sense of power with beautiful breasts never ceases to be with us – I believe.
Men never cease to admire beautiful breasts and without that (in general I mean) we feel we lose some of our femininity and womanhood.
I am taking and have taken hormones for so long I cannot remember. I think the results outdo the risk. But the balance of what you take is important.
I don’t want to lose you ever, Tammy. You are a fresh flower in the universe.
Tammy - Awwww, Joan, I think that is the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. Truly. I love being called a fresh flower in the universe. Love it! Thank you. You are right, men never cease to be enamored of breasts. And, yes, they are a big part of our femininity. Strangely, they have become quite insignificant in importance to me. I do love them, and I don’t want to lose them, but if doing so saved me, I couldn’t book the hospital room fast enough. Here’s to power beyond the breast! Thanks again, Joan, for just being you.
Sharon Greenthal - Thank goodness you’re all clear. I agree with you completely, I would give up my breasts in an instant if it meant saving my life. We are so much more than our bodies, aren’t we???
Tammy - I do SO agree, Sharon. Our bodies are only our outside skin. I value it … a LOT. But giving up a piece of it so that I could live? Yeah, no contest. I’m pretty sure I didn’t come out from under my rock for a good 3 weeks. I was boosting myself up for a stronger me that I was fairly sure I would need. I’m happy to report, I don’t.
Christina Embry - Tammy, it’s been awhile since we’ve connected but I think about you all the time because you have made such a huge impact on my life and inspired me! Thank you for sharing something so personal! Once again your an inspiration to us women no matter the age. I hope to speak to you again very soon! Stay healthy.
Tammy - Hi Christina! Ever so lovely to hear from you! Thank you for the kind words, appreciate that very much. Blogging is sharing. I waited long enough to figure out how much I wanted to share. Then I thought “what the hell, just tell it like it is”. And so I did. Appreciate the read AND the comment. And I sincerely look forward to working with you again. You know where I am!