Monday, December 17, 2007

Ain't it fun being a girl?

Stress, or rather how you deal with it, affects hormones. Hormones affect whether you cry or rage or have insomnia or sail smoothly through a crisis. Throughout my life, my hormones have treated me relatively gently (my loved ones may disagree.) Lately, though, my internal chemistry has got me wondering what is up.

So I went to my country doctor, and we had a good ol' girl cackle or two about how sometimes it's hard to be a woman. We talked about the herbs chasteberry and black cohosh and the mysterious hormonal cocktails of FSH, estradiol, estrone, estrogen, progesterone et al.

I find myself thinking about Estrus (humans, unlike animals, can have sex ALL the time) and Equus (that strange play about the English boy and horses.) Then I remember something I've heard about synthetic estrogen. That it's made, pregnant mare urine?

The upshot of this meeting is that we schedule an immediate diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound on my right breast. Because I have a small, pea-sized LUMP. She wishes me luck and says I'm fortunate to have come to see her right after finding it. Gulp.

The only surgery I want to even think about is an eye-lift, thank you very much. When the doctor leaves the room, I hear the cheap wall clock tick loudly, tick, tick, tick.

Waking up the next morning and walking naked to the kitchen for a glass of water, I catch a myopic glimpse of myself in the mirror. There they are, my breasts, looking soft and full and pleasantly primitive in the morning light. The right breast is the problem child. Wasn’t that the one the Amazon warriors removed so they could pull back their bowstrings unimpeded?

On the way to my appointment I call the Breast Center to let them know I'm running late. I'm in Big Sur, I explain, you're in Big Sur? comes the response, as if to say, you wanted to forget your mammogram appointment so badly that you took a vacation day? I live in Big Sur, I work in Big Sur, I explain patiently, and I'm going to be a little late, that's all.

Earlier that day I reviewed my book of affirmations for good health, by the controversial healer Louise Hays. Breasts, naturally enough, represent nurturing. The affirmation for healthy breasts is: I'm important. I count. I nurture myself now with love and joy. I repeat this mantra to the lovely woman who is squeezing my breasts to the breaking point.

As I wait for my ultrasound, I doze in the dark room, listening to the medical equipment which makes the whole building hum. I feel like I'm trying to sleep on a red-eye airplane flight. When we look at the monitor we see whorls of dense breast tissue, but my little lump does not materialize. Seems it's just a fibrocystic mirage.

"Some women say breast tissue looks like the ocean, or the moon," says my new best friend as she runs the wand over the warm fluid on my breasts. She goes on to describe breast ducts, the paste-like material of fibrocystic breasts, how women like myself often come in because something has changed in the tissue landscape but most times we're OK. Then, over my left breast, she says, "see, there's your heart."

O wow. I watch the tissue rise and fall, rise and fall. Now I have a visual when I feel my heart beat fast with anxiety or desire. Even though the monitor readout is in black and white, I see a warm pink glow when I see my heart. There she blows, steady and strong. What a relief! She's there! Right with me always. Taking care of me. Thank you, dear heart. Thank you thank you thank you!

To “make a clean breast” means to “bare one’s heart”. People once considered the breast to be the place where private feelings and thoughts were kept. With no more secrets in my life, I might as well reveal to the world, that I love my breasts, now more than ever.

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