all of the selves we Have ever been
After a year of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment,
I now think of my right breast like one of those tiny dogs that can be carried in a purse. Of course, my breast goes everywhere with me. I am not sure if this part of me has legs or if it is just a cute bobbing head with a cold nose, but like any privileged, spoiled pet, my breast eats up a lot of my time, and I’m always whipping it out to show someone. Together, my breast and I have had more views than Lassie, and we’re not even on TikTok.
I’ve named my pet Lymphedema. I am certain that must be the name of a Roman Goddess, one that comes alphabetically after Febris, the Goddess of Fever, and before Minerva, the goddess of pretty much everything else including wisdom, medicine, commerce, handicrafts, poetry, the arts and war, a woman for all seasons and all reasons. Lymphedema is in good company.
I am afraid my Lymphedema became full of herself not because of her namesake but due to the frequent picture taking. There was the mammogram, the ultrasound the ultrasound-guided biopsy, the ultrasound to insert the clips prior to surgery, the MRI, another MRI, a CAT scan, imaging during radiation treatments, another mammogram, another ultrasound, and then still photos when she developed redness, thickening skin and a spreading rash. And during various photo ops, attentive techs always asked what music I would like them to play. While I would have preferred a relaxing James Taylor song list, for Lymphedema’s sake, I always requested How Much is that Doggy in the Window.
A lot of poking and petting went along with the many photo opportunities. There were the doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, mammogram techs, ultrasound techs, radiation techs, oncologists, students, and even a visiting scholar! The scholar pretty much stared into his cell phone the entire visit. I am not sure if in his role as scholar he was taking notes, photographing my breast, or watching TikTok videos. Lymphedema is convinced he was texting his Albanian colleagues about the rare and beautiful Lymphedema. Whatever he was doing, his presence seemed to unsettle the usually confident and friendly young, male radiologist. Rather than touch Lymphedema during the exam, he asked, “Can you just hold it up?” I think the awkwardness of the situation may have offended Lymphedema.
But in prouder moments, Lymphedema and I mastered important poses including the classic shoulders-back, elbows-bent, arms at side and hold it while the judges look for bumps, puckers, rashes, and burns. While that was easily mastered, I recently learned that I now have to exercise Lymphedema. Turns out that just carrying her around and popping her out for show-and-tell was not enough. She now demands a daily walk! And then I have to grab her in a football hold and spin her in circles both clockwise and counterclockwise.
Through this long year, Lymphedema has become socialized and obedient learning the commands for each important event. Her appearance is improving along with her attitude. We are getting up to date on our vaccines for the coming year, and I am becoming a better handler so that I can highlight Lymphedema’s best structure—this is known as the stack, and we are stacked! Although I am not sure if Lymphedema will ever enjoy the hands-on examination or being looked over by the judges, this year of obedience training has deepened our bond and improved our communication. Lymphedema is now much better behaved and has not barked at me or anyone else all year.
I think we may be off to Westminster for the annual Dog Show. As a team, Lymphedema and I may not be much in class but we are best in show. Together, we have come through like champions.
Now, beam me up, Scotty. I need a new sport.