By Youlendree Appasamy
I always thought of my breasts as things attached to my body. That’s before I discovered a lump in one of them…
I was indoctrinated to believe that breasts are centres of femininity, of pleasure, of womanliness – that my breasts signified a key part of my identity as a women. I scorned this identity thrust upon me by virtue of a random part of my body.
When my breasts started to grow I wore the baggiest clothes. I didn’t like the straight clean lines of my body transforming into contoured lines and peaks, especially since these changes were not under my control. The first time I felt an anomaly in my right breast was when I was 16. I did not know how long it had been sitting there, growing.
I thought of the lump as merely a physiological defect. I certainly did feel defective for a long time. My mother never took me seriously: she thought that the processes of puberty were rendering my body strange and that I was overreacting to these changes.
When the lump made itself known to me, I became even more confused about my body. I felt some sort of betrayal afoot and this growth reminded me that my body does things without my permission. My mind and my body went through a bitter divorce when I found out that I had an abnormally large lump in my right breast.
A local GP recommended me to a radiographer and the process of medical check-ups on my breasts began. In the space of a few months doctors came to the conclusion that I have a large fibro-adenoma in my breast. During this period I was hyper-aware of the danger of breast cancer. In my mind, a lump in your breast is more likely to be cancerous than not. A fibro-adenoma is, by definition, benign but that status is in flux, and it can become malignant in time.
The diagnosis was meant to be a simple, linear process of clinical examination, radiography and needle-point biopsy. I went for about two clinical check-ups before going to see a radiographer to get a mammogram and ultrasound done.
The mammogram machine was loud. The cold metal pincers grabbed and squeezed my breasts while radio waves captured the whole ordeal. I was so young and confused, but I put on a brave face for the nurses, my mom and even the mirror. I told myself again and again that I wouldn’t let my body win this. I would not cry and I would definitely not show any sign of fear. Every doctor’s appointment, ultrasound and surgical examination was another task I had to complete stoically.
I was determined that my body would not win, so I marched on and pleaded with my mum to have preventative surgery on my lump. I wanted it out of my system as soon as possible. My mum refused and suggested instead a homeopathic detox in the hopes that the lump would be reduced or, magically vanish. I resented the whole process because I felt it wouldn’t work in the way I wanted it to. The surgeons and doctors strongly recommended that my lump was removed by surgery. Their authoritative opinion persuaded me that that was the only way of continuing to live my life…
Look out for Part 2.