How To Handle A Flasher
Friday, February 7, 2014
Well, hey there Internet! Yes, it's really me! I thought I'd peek into this world wide web here and make sure all is right in your world since I've been gone for like a million years or two months or whatever.

My world? Well, it's all been uphill since I found out I do not have cancer. Just a clean horizontal slice of a scar on my boob, a reminder that life is this fragile, ever-shifting, dazzling thing. 

And even though I should have known this all along, there's a newfound delight in that realization. And it fills me up every morning, when through my haze of waking, I think, yay! I have today and tomorrow and tomorrow and all of these ever afters to drink coffee and pet dogs' wiggly bodies and listen to my girl's stories and kiss my husband and judge people harshly while driving and just live like it's champagne and strawberries, 24/7. 

Although, that might not be the best example. Too much champagne makes me bloated and headachy and if I eat too many strawberries, I get mouth ulcers. 

But you get the point. Hopefully.

Anyway, I wish for all of you this very same kind of delight. And also lots of fancy new shoes.

So, in honor of the wonderful days I have been given, I thought I'd tell you about an encounter I had recently. It has taken me a while to talk about it because, well, it was just so . . .  

Bad. 

Like, really, really bad. I'm talking crazy-ass bad. 

And yes, I know I tend to be dramatic. At life. And in general. 

And I know when I say something's really bad, most everyone will be rolling their eyes and saying, "Okay, like the time your coffeemaker stopped working because it needed to be descaled and you didn't know how to do that and your husband, the descaler, was out of town for 2 weeks and so, for 2 weeks you had to go to the gas station to get your coffee because going to Starbucks means you would have to make a u-turn on a busy highway and that's too much pressure to take before coffee, so you had to settle for gas station coffee for two weeks—that kind of bad?"**

**This is actually a true story. And yes, it was bad. But not anywhere near the caliber of bad I'm about to rain down on you.  

So here goes, as I wince and tell the story from between my fingers.

A few months ago, my daughter, the only one left at home—who is now lucky enough to be the sole recipient of my machine-gun-barrage of questions as soon she comes home from school since the only social contact I have on most days is the UPS man and the three dogs—that long-suffering girl asked me to take her to the store because she wanted to bake a cake. 

I had just worked out, so I told her I'd drive her up there but I was going to stay in the car because I was gross-out sweaty. (Okay, so maybe I wasn't dripping in sweat. Maybe I laid on the floor and did a light Pilates workout while watching Breaking Bad and when I mean light, I mean I didn't even bother with a workout bra. But I needed some kind of story to justify watching Breaking Bad all day. Besides, I really didn't feel like going into the store since that would require putting on a bra, which—hello—way too much effort.)

So off we went to the store. I dropped her at the entrance and parked. 

I sat in my car, reading some Jonathan Franzen or maybe I was scrolling through my Instagram, (I can't really remember), when a pickup truck parked next to me. 

My car is low to the ground, so the pickup occupant had a good view of the inside of my car. 

And view he did. 

I immediately sensed someone staring and I looked up to see a man leering at me from the truck.

Now when I say man, I mean the poster child of Perv. Everything that would make the hair on the back of your neck stick up because a serial killer was parked next to you, sizing you up to see if you would make a good skin suit, was this guy. Big unfashionable creeper glasses, baseball hat scrunched down low on his head and a gross, gross, grosser than an old man in bicycle pants, pornstache—walrus-like and furry. 

I shot him a dirty look because I am adept at the F**ck You look when it comes to leering creepers. (I guess I have a type.) And then I moved my seat back in an effort to block his view and went back to my big Franzen novel. Or Instagram. 

He sat in his truck for what seemed like forever just full-on staring at me. (I could still see part of his serial killer leering face after I moved my seat.) So I tried to ignore him, but it was hard to concentrate on the prose, Filtered photos, as his eyes bore into me. 

Finally, after what seemed like hours, he apparently grew tired of trying to bore his way into my poser workout clothes with his overly magnified eyeballs. He got out of his truck and made his way into the store.

I was relieved. Surely, my daughter would be out soon. She was only going in to buy cake ingredients, but then again, she did have my debit card which she thinks is a magic card that allows her to get all the free makeup her teenage heart desires.

Unfortunately, Perv Man was back before I could check the sexual predator database on my phone. 

He had no shopping bags probably because they were out of Jeffrey Dahmer eyewear. I pretended not to notice him, keeping my head down as he got in his truck. But as the minutes ticked by, he didn't leave and I could feel his heavy stare upon me, like hot breath against my neck. 

Infuriated, I gave him a quick sideways sneer and that's when I realized he wasn't sitting in his truck the right way. 

He was sitting in his truck sideways. 

Facing me. 

With the door open just enough that if I craned my head forward, I knew I was sure to see something that would haunt every corner of my very small brain for the rest of my days.

He just sat there in that flasher position, his body angled toward me, his truck door open just enough for me to see whatever he had going on there in Perv world. 

I was panicked. Scared. Sick. I felt like I had been draped in a blanket of Ick. 

I was on the verge of tears, with my hand on the gear shift ready to back squealing, out of my spot and race far, far away from this vile, twisted creature. (I'm not very good at backing up, but I figured my fight or flight response would kick in and make me drive like that racecar girl who does the Go Daddy commercials.) 

And then suddenly it hit me. That was exactly what he wanted me to do. Flashers get off on terrified reactions. 

Don't they? 

Actually, I have no idea what flashers get off on nor do I ever want to know, but what I did know was I refused to allow this sicko and his twisted act turn me into a blubbering mess of fear and panic.

So, even though my heart was racing, I decided to stand my ground. 

Eff him. I was going to be strong. 

I was going to stare him full in the face, give him an indignant smirk as if to say, "Really? You shouldn't even bother showing off that pitiful thing." And then pull away slowly, making a big show of snapping a picture of his license plate. Then, I would park safely away from this asshat and immediately report him to my grocery store and the police. 

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar—Perverts of grocery store parking lots. 

But before I could put my empowering plan into action, the perv did something that froze my heart and froze me, like, seriously. I could not move, because . . . 

He started moving. 

As in sitting in place, his head down as his body rocked in a back and forth action. 

A jerking action.

As in, something was getting wanked. 

For my viewing horror. 

I wanted to scream. I thought I was having a heart attack. I was breathing, hyperventilating really, in squeaky little gasps. I couldn't believe this was happening to me in the middle of the day in my very nice suburban grocery store parking lot. I couldn't lean forward and look. It was bad enough that I was the victim of a wanking predator, I didn't want to carry the image of that horror around for the rest of my scarred life. 

And then it hit me. 

My daughter. 

Who would be coming out of the store at any moment. 

Who just wanted to bake a cake. 

Who was 15 years old and didn't deserve this sort of wretchedness. 

And my panic did a 360 as the mother bear inside me roared to life. 

Forget, I Am Woman. 

I Am Mama, you punk-ass bitch and you WILL hear me roar. 

I picked up my phone and with shaky hands, hit the button that rolled down the passenger side window.

I held up the phone, trembling so badly, the phone threatened to slip out of my tenuous grasp and yelled fiercely, 

"GET READY TO GO TO JAIL, YOU MOTHERF*****R! I'VE GOT YOUR PICTURE AND YOUR LICENSE PLATE AND I'M CALLING 911.* YOU MESSED WITH THE WRONG GIRL, YOU F***ING PERV!"

*I did not have his license plate, but I figured I'd snap a quick pic as I squealed out of there while calling 911. Multi-tasking, my friends. It's the key to getting things done. 

Now here's the thing. . . 

I figured Mr. Jack Off would panic, zip up his fly, hopefully catching his perv parts in the process and haul ass out of there. 

But instead he stopped wanking, looked up at me, his googly eyes blinking through his thick lenses and just stared at me as if I had three heads. 

I know, right? Some nerve. 

And then?

He looked to the right and to the left and then behind him, as if, as if he were trying to figure out who the hell this crazy lady was yelling at. 

And it was then, this one thought, like a nuclear bomb, went off in my brain. 

It occurred to me that perhaps I should lean forward and check out that, in fact, he was actually wanking off instead of assuming he was wanking off. 

Since we all know what happens when you assume.  

So, I promptly leaned forward, certain I was guaranteeing myself years of therapy from what horrors I was about to view. 

But instead?

I saw Lotto scratch-off tickets. 

Three of them. Neatly spread out across his thighs. 

He'd been scratching off. 

Not jerking off. 

And because I am never quite content to be just a regular moron, I doubled up on my moron-ness and decided in my panic to pretend I was talking to someone else. 

Yes. Yes I did. 

I pointed emphatically at some vague spot behind this poor man and said, "That's right. I'm talking to you."

And pretended to take a picture of some other Wanking Pervert behind him. 

I then tossed my phone onto the passenger seat, threw my car into reverse and high-tailed it out of there, away to the other side of the parking lot before he could get my license plate. I found a parking spot behind a big construction dumpster and texted my daughter, telling her to call me when she was through and to meet me at the farthest exit of the store. 

I was still shaking when she came out of the store. 

She got in the car and took one look at me and said, "Mom, what's wrong?" 

And as lightly as possible, since 15-year-olds should be spared the details of their mother's total jackass-ness, much less stories about bogus wanking, I told her that I kinda accused an innocent man of flashing me. 

She didn't even hesitate. She said, "Eew Mom. You are so gross."

Oh, my darling daughter, gross doesn't even begin to cover what I am. 

Today's Definite Download:  So much beautiful music has been made since we've spoken last. I want to share it all, but for today, I'll give you just this one treat. 

A few years ago, the bands Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros decided to get together for a six city tour on a vintage train, starting from California and ending in New Orleans. 

They made a documentary of this fantastic event, The Big Easy Express, and it's on Showtime right now. If you're into music, you should watch this. It's such a celebration of music and the people who spend their lives making that music. 

It made me very happy. 

And one of the biggest reasons for my happiness was Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. I know. You're probably saying, "Who?"

The Zeros are an indie group with a whole lot of people in their band. Their music is rollicking and quirky, sometimes joyous, sometimes sadly beautiful but always incredible. Their most commercial song is called, "Home." You might know it. Here's a link. 

Alex Ebert (Edward Sharpe) is the lead singer. You might have seen him on the Golden Globes, the really tall hot hipster with the man bun who won a Globe for best movie score and talked about meeting Diddy on a yacht in St. Bart's. Now, that's rock and roll talking right there. 

On the Big Easy Tour, the three bands would end each concert, joining together to sing the old gospel song, "This Train Is Bound For Glory." And when I say sing, I mean they Put. It. Down. 

If you want to be happy, watch this compilation of their finales. If you don't want to be happy, go right now to the theater and buy yourself a ticket for that Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts movie. 

Good Freaking Night, that thing was darker than a cave with hurricane shutters. You think you're going in to see a dark COMEDY, because the trailer is quite misleading and you leave there limping and muttering, "Nothing will ever be good again." Like, it was layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of bad. Like not even the Kennedy's have this much bad shit happen to them in one sitting. 

I advise this big, messy, rollicking performance instead. Alex Ebert is the tall one who's dancing around like an old time preacher at a revival show. Enjoy. I'll see you soon. 
Joann




The Journey Of My Breast—By A Boob
Monday, November 4, 2013
Hey! Hey! Hey! Internet!

Yes, I'm still alive. My dogs haven't eaten me in my sleep . . . yet.  

And no, I didn't quit blogging. I just took a break because I had some things going on and when I say, things, I mean THINGS, y'all. 

I still have a treasure trove of ridiculous life stories for you my beloved Internet but nothing is more important than this one I'm about to give you. 

Because if one person learns from my stupidity, then I'll be slap-clappin' jig-dancin' happy. 

So here goes. 

I have special breasts. 

Not in a party trick kind of way special. They don't light up or play tunes or dance independently of one another. Although, if that's possible, I'd like to learn how to make them dance in different directions. Maybe youtube has some boob dancing tutorials. 

And my breasts are not special in a Scarlett-Johansson-fabulous-perky-voluptuous kind of way. 

They used to be quite lovely, perky and voluptuous, but three aggressive teat-sucking babies put an end to that pretty darn quick. I swear, sometimes I thought I birthed wolves instead of little girls with their "grrrrr-let-me-yank-me-out-some-lunch" nursing. 

So now my boobs just look like sad, deflated tube socks that have been through the wash too many times. They only give the illusion of looking fabulous when I'm wearing a damn good constructed bra. Thanks, pushup bras for working extra hard for me. 

No, my breasts are special because they are filled with fibrocystic breast tissue. 

Which means, I am lumpy everywhere. All the time. 

So you would think, Internet, that someone with lumps everywhere would do regular self breast checks and be vigilant about her annual mammograms. 

You would also think that someone whose mother had breast cancer would be ultra vigilant, especially if that mother had two sisters and both those sisters had battled breast cancer, all three of them with three different types of breast cancer, you would think that person would be on top of this breast cancer thing. 

Because, it would be utterly stupid not to be. 

Internet, allow me to introduce myself, I am Stupid Girl. 

I know. 

The crazy thing is I am hyper-vigilant about my health. 

I exercise. 

I surf Web M.D at least three times a week, looking for possible death ailments that fit my symptoms.

I have two, not one, but two, blood pressure machines. 

And yes, I keep empty bottles of hand soap in my closet because I am super organized like that. 

I eat quinoa and kale for fun. For fun, y'all. 

I go to the dermatologist every three months. I am always on time for my annual checkup, not to mention the 3,050 visits in between every time I feel a twinge and turn to Web M.D. and diagnose myself with Bubonic plague. Don't laugh, it's still around. People were getting it in California last year. And yes, I was in California last year. And yes, I totally googled the symptoms of Bubonic Plague and I'm pretty sure I had a light case of it that lasted about 3 days. Luckily, none of my body parts got necrosis and fell off. So, there's that to be thankful for. 

I am at the dentist every 6 months. I floss 45 times a day. 

I don't stand too close to the microwave. I eat organic. I don't drink soda. I don't do crack and I never miss an annual pap smear. 

And every year the doctor hands me my scrip for my special mammogram for my special breasts and every year, I place it on my desk with every intention of calling tomorrow. Tomorrow bleeds into a thousand tomorrows and the same vicious cycle happens year after year after year. 

I know. Stupid, stupid girl. 

My reason for this is so flimsy and inexcusable it is shameful. 

You see, it was all so much trouble. 

The times I'd had a mammogram, it was always, "You have a suspicious mass." 

And that would lead to ultrasounds. And the ultrasounds would lead to an appointment with a specialist and the specialist would say, "You have fibrocystic breasts."

Uh . .  Duh. 

And all of this would add up to weeks of hand-wringing worry, only to be told the same thing every time. 

And that is no excuse. No excuse at all. 

Stupid Girl. 

At my annual pelvic this year, my gynecologist and I were just chatting away as she poked and prodded all my lady parts, when all of a sudden, she said, "Wow, you've got a large mass here."

I was all, "Uh, what?"

She wasn't too concerned, she thought it was most likely more fibroid cysts, but she said I should get it checked out right away, just to be on the safe side. 

My doctor's practice offers mammograms onsite but since I have special breasts that need special mammograms, she gave me a list of diagnostic centers the practice used and sent me on my way. 

That little voice inside of me, that important fate-determining whisper that far too many times I've ignored, nagged at me to make the call right away.

And, for once, I listened.

I didn't like any of the diagnostic centers on the list. I'd been to all of them for various reasons (mostly hypochondriac) over the years and wasn't impressed with their take-a-number approach. So I went home and googled. 

It was to be the first star that lit my way down a fortuitous path, one that I can only explain was set in place by angels or maybe Criss Angel, since he's a magician AND an angel. 



Anyway . . . 

My googling brought me to the top rated mammogram place in my neck of the woods. One reviewer said the center's radiologist actually discussed your mammogram and ultrasound findings with you and that one little bit of information sold me. 

Because there is nothing worse than a radiology technician's poker face. 

And if you've ever had an ultrasound or a mammogram, you know of what I speak. 

I think they have a class that teaches them how to ask certain generic questions that will set off your, "Egads, I'm dying, aren't I?" alarm and then teaches them how to say nothing as they give you that bland but insipid smile that confirms, "Gurrrl, you are so screwed."  

So, because I knew a radiologist would not give me a poker face, I chose Women's Diagnostic Center.

Star number two, set right in front of me. Thanks, Criss Angel. 

I called them immediately. They could get me in the following day. 

I had plans that I didn't want to cancel which may or may not have been my hair appointment, so I asked to be seen the following day. 

Star number three, which will piece together nicely here in a second. 

The place was lovely, peaceful and smelled of vanilla and everyone there was nice. Super nice. 

I was ushered back for my mammogram, still thinking it was nothing but another fibrocystic bugger. 

Everything changed when the mammogram tech asked me in that innocently treacherous way, "Have you ever had any of your cysts biopsied?"

That moment, right there. That was when I knew. 

She finished squishing my boob and breezily said she was going to show my slides to the radiologist, to have a seat, she'd be right back. 

I sat there in my little pink tied-together cloak, focusing on a spot on the wall and tried to breathe. The minutes feeling like hours as I ticked by all the years, all those wasted years, I'd ignored those little slips of paper. How stupid I had been. 

When she came back, she told me the radiologist wanted to see me after my ultrasound. 

That was it for me, the deal sealer. The radiologist was most certainly coming in to perform last rites.

I went through the motions in a daze, soon finding myself reclined in a dark room while the ultrasound tech slid that metal disc over my lubed up breasts. 

As I lay there, trying not to panic, my phone started ringing in my purse. 

And it didn't stop. Over and over and over, someone was trying to call me. At that point, I didn't give a shit if Chicken Little was on the phone to tell me the sky was falling. I didn't care about anything. I was just waiting to hear the word cancer. 

Finally, the ultrasound tech asked if I wanted my purse because I'm sure nothing was more soothing to her than the constant jangle of my phone. 

She handed me my purse and I fished out my phone to see 4,999 missed calls, all from my husband. 

Probably to ask me where the milk was while standing in front of the open fridge, to which I would answer, "try right in front of you" to which he would say, "oh, I didn't see it."

Because on our wedding day, the man vowed to not be able to locate anything for the rest of our days together. 

The phone rang again and I answered to him asking, "Hey, where are you?"

I said, "I'm laying on a table getting an ultrasound."

Which he knew, but apparently I am one of those things he has trouble locating. 

He said, "The weirdest thing just happened."

Every morning before heading off to the office, my husband starts his truck, cranks the air, and comes back inside to gather up all his business things before leaving. A little Florida strategy so that he doesn't melt in his suit from the broiling heat. 

But on this morning, he said he started his truck like usual, closed the door like usual and then he said, "It was weird. It was like someone inside the truck hit the lock (cough, Criss Angel) because the doors all suddenly locked."

His truck was sitting in the garage, locked and running and he didn't have a spare key.

Star number four. 

I had my set of keys, so he enlisted his business partner to drive him up to the diagnostic center.

A few minutes after I hung up, the ultrasound tech finished and left the room to get the radiologist. 

Leaving me there, to stare up at the ceiling with a hammering heart. Knowing. Knowing. And all I could think of was those slips of paper on my desk. 

Stupid, stupid girl. 

And then, Dr. Mary Gardner walked into the room and into my panicked life. 

And a shower of stars lit up the sky.

She held my hand and told me she was going to show me something.

I've never wanted to hide my eyes so much in all my life.

She pointed to a blob on the screen and said, "My dear, you have a mass."

She explained that this was not a cyst, because it had cells. Blobs with cells are never a good thing, especially when they are in your boob.

She talked to me about centimeters, not millimeters mind you, but CENTimeters, how mine had A LOT of them and uneven borders and margins and cells, but she might as well have been speaking to me from underwater. I was frozen on those words, you have a mass.

And just then, the phone I still clutched tightly in my hand, rang.

I answered with a faint hello and my husband, my strong, wonderful husband said,

"I'm here."

He went on to say, "Hey, run those keys out to the parking lot for me if you would. I'm late for an appointment."

I whispered into the phone, "They found something."

He was too busy laughing with his business partner to hear those life-changing words, so he asked me again to jog out into the parking lot with his keys. 

I repeated those awful, awful words. This time he heard them. He said, "I'll be right there."

And he was. Right there. Like he always is. 

He asked the questions I am so usually adept at. He asked the questions as I lay there, trying not to cry, focusing on that one thing, a blob with cells. 

Dr. Mary Gardner answered all of his questions fully and honestly and then she added, "And if I were to biopsy it, because of its large size, I would . . . " The rest was Charlie Brown teacher talk to me, overwhelmed by the fact that all of this was really happening to me. 

And as she explained in detail exactly how she would biopsy it, she suddenly said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I tend to get carried away when I talk about biopsies. It's kind of my specialty."

To which my husband who is the guy who Gets. Things. Done. said, "Can you* do it? Right now?"

And that wonderful Dr. Mary Gardner said, "You know, I would* really like to do this for you. I don't usually work here, but today I'm filling in for a colleague and I have a little downtime before I have to be at my office, so yeah, let's see if we can make this happen."

*I apologize for my overuse of italics, but that's how intense the conversation was—italic intense. 

If I had been there any other day. 

But I wasn't. I was there and Mary Gardner was there and so . . . 

Suddenly, the room was filled with the flurry of things about to get real. Dr. Gardner left to make the phone calls to get this party started. The nurses and techs began prepping the place for a biopsy and I was ushered out of the room to change and wait for a possible biopsy on the same day we discovered my blob with cells. 

John, the owner of the diagnostic center, took us into his office and explained that as much as they would like to do this on the spot biopsy, chances were it would not happen today. That we needed a scrip from my ob gyn and that doctors didn't like to give same day ok's on biopsies. That following medical protocol was kinda a big thing to doctors and this was certainly not protocol. Not at all. 

He then went on to say if our request for this biopsy was denied, that I should have it done by Dr. Mary Gardner, because, in his words, "She is the absolute best." He went on to say that he had been trying to woo her to his practice for years, that he had built his 3D wing, just to entice her, but that Mary wouldn't budge from her practice, which was in her home town many miles from this diagnostic center. 

I took his words in, still numb with shock. After preparing us for what would be an eventual no, he left us to go check on our progress. 

I was trembling and my husband cupped my hand in his and said, "It's going to be fine. If anything, we caught in time, since your last mammogram was clean, right?"

My voice shook as I confessed I hadn't kept up on my mammograms because I am a Stupid Girl. 

All those years, this thing, this terrible thing was probably growing inside of me and now it was big and scary and possibly a danger to me and I did nothing, all because it was too much of a bother. 

I waited with a heavy heart, knowing I had sealed my own fate with my stupidity.  

And then John walked back into the room with a fax and said, "You're not going to believe this. We got an approval."

The following week I spoke to my gynecologist who said once she heard Dr. Mary Gardner was doing my biopsy she approved it without question. 

One more star Criss Angel set in that sky to light my way. 

Before I knew it, I was back on the table, dazed and confused by this speedy turn of events. I had walked out the door for a mammogram this morning, expecting to be done by now and in the drive thru of  Einstein's ordering my favorite bagel. (Thin Everything bagel with egg white, asparagus and swiss cheese) 

But instead, here I was, getting prepped to have a big needle gun through my boob. 

Dr. Gardner walked in and before she did anything else, she gathered my hands in hers and said, "I know this all seems so crazy, so I thought I'd tell you a little bit about myself to make you feel more comfortable."

She ran through her credentials and experience, which were quite impressive. And then she informed me that for a good part of her career she worked with Dr. Charles Cox. 

That path in front of me was now ablaze with a sky full of shimmery stars lighting my way. 

Dr. Cox was the first one to ever diagnose me with fibrocystic breasts. I'd been sent his way after another sketchy mammogram and ultrasound. I met him when he walked into the exam room of our big cancer center with his posse of eager residents. 

Dr. Cox is a breast cancer pioneer who is known for his boob research and some stuff that involves diagnostic and surgical techniques he developed. He's also super nice and made me feel very comfortable even as he used my boob as a teaching tool for the posse of wide eyed residents who acted like they'd never seen a tube sock breast in their life. 

Let me put it this way, not to get ahead of my story, but a few weeks after my biopsy I was in NYC having a conversation with a nurse practitioner, who happened to be from my neck of the woods. I was telling her about my situation and my upcoming surgery and she told me I needed to make sure I had a really qualified breast surgeon who wouldn't mess up my boobs, since my tumor was so exceptionally large. 

As if tube sock boobs really could get messed up any more than they already are. 

I said, "Well, supposedly my doctor's the best in the business."

And she said, "Oh, then Charlie Cox must be your surgeon." I was quite delighted by that confirmation. She went on to say we were lucky to have him since any hospital in the country would jump at the chance to have him. 

But I have skipped ahead. Not to confuse you, but let's go back to me in my pink cloak, seconds away from that needle gun shooting into my boob. 

Dr. Gardner went on to say that even though she loved working with Dr. Cox, there were other factors in her job that made her unhappy. To be clear, Dr. Cox was not one of them, in fact, he was the reason she had stayed longer than she should.  

And then she said, everything changed when her 24-year-old son died in a skiing accident. She realized that life was too unpredictable and precious to waste a second of it, that we all should try for happiness in every single moment we are given on this Earth.

I really liked the sound of that. 

So she left Dr. Cox and moved her practice closer to home. 

She then said a curious thing to me. She squeezed my hand and said, "I feel like the heavens aligned today so that we could meet. I know how it feels to wait for possibly life changing news and I feel so fortunate to be able to do this for you."

I assured her that I was the fortunate one, but she kept insisting, as if I was the one giving her a gift. 

Later on, I found out that her son, an expert skier who lived in Montana, had gone off for a day of solo skiing. 

In March. 

His body was not found until July. 

He had tumbled off an 800 ft cliff that had been covered in snow. Her husband, on one of his many search missions, felt his son's presence in a certain area he was searching. He looked around and came across his son's ski poles. Search and Rescue found their boy's body a few days later. 

She certainly knew how it felt to wait for unimaginable news. 

In all my years to come, I will consider that day of my biopsy a gift. A gift because the terrible was made into something better, something filled with great fortune and hope and kindness because of Dr. Mary Gardner and all the wonderful people put in my path on that day.  

Mary did my biopsy, which was utterly painless, a reassurance for anyone who ever needs to have a biopsy.

And then she left the room to do some doctorly things, while the nurse attended to me. 

A few minutes later she came back in to tell me she'd spent the last ten minutes talking to my husband. She said he peppered her with questions and then he said, "You can't let anything happen to her."

I have banked those words in the cobwebbed compartments of my memory. I'll try to keep his plea in mind every time he can't find his keys, cell, shoes, milk, etc . . . and every time I fall into the toilet in the middle of the night because I've given up asking. 

She hugged me then and whispered, "You're going to be just fine. When you have that kind of love, everything will be fine."

It was the only time I cried while in the office. 

Mary then dashed off. She was late for her real job, but before she left, she gave me her card and told me to call her cell phone anytime for anything, no matter how big or small. 

And then the awful began. 

One week of waiting. 

Seven days of worry. Of waking up in the middle of the night with a pounding heart and a head full of all the terrible possibilities. Of panic attacks in the middle of the grocery store. Of picturing Debra Winger in her hospital bed in Terms of Endearment and the doctor taking her hand and saying, "Dear, you have a malignancy" except it's not Debra Winger in my version, it's me saying the words along with the doctor. Of trying to fill up every moment with life so that I wouldn't think about the big What If. Of every single moment filled with the terror of that What If. Of driving down the road and cry-singing my way through Avicii's, "Wake Me Up" as if it were written for me. "I can't tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start." Of sitting at the stoplight and looking around at the cars around me and wondering what kind of pain and worry all my fellow travelers held in their hearts. Of trying not to Google. Of holding my husband's hand. Of listening, really listening to my daughters, not just their words, but the sweet melodic cadence of their voices as they told me the details of their lives. Of holding on a few more seconds to their hugs. Of relishing the fact that I have been a fortunate soul to have all these beautiful years with my family. Of getting down on my knees constantly in those seven days, begging through tears for the Lord to grant me even more. 

It was hard. The only thing harder were the days of bottomless grief after my dad's sudden death. 

But finally, that week came to its slow motion end and by 10 AM on the seventh day when the diagnostic center had not called, my husband, the man who Gets. Things. Done. suggested I call them. 

I couldn't. I was so crippled in anxiety, the thought of punching in the numbers made me feel like I was going into cardiac arrest. My husband offered to make the call and so I let him. He sat at his desk and I stood over him, every bit of me, a quivering mess. 

The receptionist told him they had the results, but they hadn't gone over them with Dr. Gardner yet, so they weren't allowed to discuss them with me. She offered to put him through to our new friend, John, the owner of the center.  John told my husband he was in the middle of a meeting, but he would contact Dr. Gardner as soon as he was done and get back to us ASAP.

And then my husband said with all of his wishful thinking, "Can you tell me, at least, if it's good news. It's good news, right?"

John said something to my husband on his end of the phone. I didn't know what it was, but I watched my husband's face go pale. It makes me feel a little pukey even now, writing the words, conjuring up the memory of hope fading from my husband's face. 

He hung up and looked at me. I was trembling violently by this point and I said, "Oh God. That's it. He said it's bad, right? I've got cancer."

My husband tried to reassure me but all he could give me were John's words to his question of it being good news. John had said, "Well, I'm not going to go there."

Which could mean anything. But in my mind, it meant, "Gurllll, you are so screwed!"

I took a shower because it was the only thing I could think to do besides throwing up and I by the time I got out I was filled with a righteous indignation. I told my husband that I would not wait a single more second, that I was going to call them up and demand answers.

(In the meantime, I do not want you to think, Internet, that Women's Diagnostic are bad people. On the contrary. They could not have been kinder or more helpful. And if it wasn't for them, that gift of a day would have never happened.)

After I bitched and moaned, my husband reminded me of Dr. Mary's card. The card with her cell phone number on it. 

I called, putting her on speakerphone at my husband's insistence. 

She picked up immediately and as I stumbled over myself apologizing and telling her how the diagnostic center couldn't tell me, she cut me off with, "Oh honey. BENIGN. IT'S BENIGN."

I have been told a lot of words in my lifetime. Life-changing words, "Hey, my name's Bill. Aren't you in my English Lit class?" "I love you." "You have been accepted." "You're hired." "We want you to write for our paper." "Will you marry me?" "I do." "Meet your daughter." "Meet your newest daughter." "Meet another one of your daughters." "Hey, just so you know, your dress was tucked in your underwear the whole time you were talking during the meeting." 

But no words have ever left me feeling more alive, so thankful for the big and small days to come. 

The feeling was temporary. 

Dr. Mary Gardner put me in contact with Dr. Cox's nurse who was kind enough to move some things around and get me into see the boob man asap. 

I had a fibroepithelial lesion with cellular stroma and I had no idea what that meant, but Dr. Gardner said even though it was benign, it needed to come out because it was big and it was the kind of thing that would only grow bigger. 

So since I would rather have tube sock boobs than elephant man boobs, I went to go see Dr. Cox. 

After examining me and checking out all my diagnostic results, Dr. Cox told me he couldn't be sure it was benign. That my lesion was big, disconcertingly big, that the big ones are always tricky because malignant cells can hide, that he couldn't rule cancer out. And that the only way to properly figure out what the hell this blob was overtaking my boob was to excise it along with a good amount of the surrounding tissue. He said it would be a large excision, but not to worry, he was good at not leaving scars and that the divot would hardly be noticeable because of my ample breasts. 

He did not add ample, tube sock breasts, but we all know he was thinking it. 

And then he told me not to worry because it would be fine. He would make it so. 

And honestly? I didn't worry. Thanks to Criss Angel and the blanket of stars that had brought me here, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. In the best of hands. 

I didn't get anxious until the day before my surgery when I realized that I was about to have my ample tube sock cut open and I could possibly tomorrow be Debra Winger lying in a hospital bed and that's when I burst into tears listening to "Total Eclipse of The Heart" while driving the kids to school, cry-singing, "Every now and then I fall apart. Turn around Bright Eyes." While the teenagers all stared at me in what-the-hell silence. 

And since I wasn't allowed to have wine 24 hours before my surgery, (what the hell?) I decided the next best way to relax was to go shopping. 

I needed a button up shirt to go home from the hospital and as soon as I saw this, I heard Katy Perry singing, "You're gonna hear me roar. Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh."


I walked into the surgery center the next day in my leopard spots, my pink slippers, ready to take on this effin' fibroepithelial lesion with cellular stroma. 

First thing on the agenda was the placement of the wire. 

A Wire. In My Boob. 

Yes, I know. Your boobs are cringing at those words. And so were mine. 

But honestly, it was painless. In fact, it was quite nice. 

I was taken back to a cubicle with an ultra plush recliner. I almost felt like the nurse was going to pull up a stool and ask me what color I wanted my pedicure. They did all my essential workups while I kicked back in that recliner. And then they took me to another room where a doctor stuck a wire into my boob and through my tumor to guide Dr. Cox during surgery.


I'm telling you, a paper cut was more painful than the wire placement. 

The only problem was I now had a wire sticking out of my boob and that freaked me out a bit. 

I mentioned it to the nurse and she taped it up with gauze and that was the end of that. 

Then it was on to surgery. 

Dr. Cox came in and chatted with us for about 30 minutes and about five minutes into our chat, my husband said, "Hey, can you take a picture of the tumor when you're in there?"

To which Dr. Cox said, "Oh yeah, I can take a picture."

That's when my husband knew Dr. Cox was his kind of people. 

And for anyone who likes that sort of stuff, here's the picture Dr. Cox texted my husband. Everyone else close your eyes.

Say hello to my little friend. 

Surgery went well. Probably because there's a lot of room to work with in tube sock boobs. 

Here I am high as a kite and makeup free in recovery. I know, breathtaking.

I was sore and when I tell you my boob looks like it's been run over by a big rig and then thrown off a cliff where a stampede of mountain goats trampled over it, I would be understating the purple, black and blue thing that was my breast. 

Here's the top of my chest wall. There is nothing inappropriate showing here. My bathing suit gives off more flesh, but I just wanted you to see a small inkling of the bruising.


The entire boob was a rainbow of bruised colors. And yes, that is Dr. Cox's autograph. He marked it so he would operate on the correct boob. I wish I'd had that inked over. I would have loved to have had a mysterious tattoo souvenir of that day. 

But as bad as it looked, I only needed one day of pain pills. And now the only time I hurt is when I'm doing my Beyonce moves to "All The Single Ladies" while driving and the seat belt cinches too tight during the "Whoa-oh-oh" move. Or when well meaning people give me the big bear hug which is more like a hug mammogram and say, "How are you feeling?" To which I want to answer, "AAAIIIIEEEE!"

(I've gotten to the point, where I just say when I see them moving in for a meaningful hug, "Don't hug the boob hard." And that seems to work.)

One week after my surgery, I got the news:

I had a phylloide tumor. A BENIGN phylloide tumor. 

And for those of you curious—phylloide tumors are rare breast tumors, making up less than 1% of breast tumors. They are fast-growing and usually big-ass tumors. (I am paraphrasing the American Cancer site.) They are either benign, borderline or malignant with the majority being benign. They're different from the rest of the breast cancers because the tumor grows in the connective tissue instead of the duct and if even one phyllode cell is left in the breast, the tumor will come back, thus this type of lumpectomy takes a wide margin of tissue around the tumor just to be on the safe side. And most importantly, because of the large excision, you will not be allowed to take a bubble bath for an entire month. 

I KNOW! I almost fell off the exam table at that one. 

And for anyone who is going in for a lumpectomy, here's my best bits of advice:

You MUST buy this bra for your recovery.

Lumpectomy patients are advised to wear a supportive bra 24/7 until they're healed. I had gone out and bought myself a fancy, expensive athletic front closing bra. I never wore it. Most athletic bras have too much compression for a healing boob. It hurts. My daughters happened to be in Walmart the day after my surgery and spotted the As Seen On TV Genie Bra. And since my daughters are As Seen On TV addicts who think everyone of their products are miracles from heaven, no matter how cheaply they're constructed, they got me one. 

I made them go back and get me three more. 

I would never wear this bra in my normal life, it's not the best for tube socks, but for healing, it has been an As Seen On TV miracle from heaven. Not too tight and not too loose, perfect for black and blue boobs. Buy it bigger than your normal size and buy it in pink. 

Give your body time to heal. Lay around without feeling guilty. Allow your family to pamper you. (As if that happened in my house . . . puhlleeease.  That first day when I got home I was drinking water like a racehorse, constantly calling for more water like I was in the Sahara. My husband finally brought me the giant Big Daddy water jug our girls use for soccer with an extension straw made from pieced together straws so it would reach me in bed. That was the extent of my pampering.) 

Be prepared to feel sad. For no reason. I started crying about midway through the week and didn't stop for a couple of days. I have no idea why. I didn't lose my boob. The bruises were going to heal. I was benign. But everything just made me feel blue. Thankfully after a few days, the sadness lifted and I'm back to waking up every morning thinking, "Yay! I get to have coffee!" Like usual. But just be ready, because that sadness snuck up behind me and smacked me over the head. 

Try not to eat all the Butterfingers in the candy dish because you won't be allowed to work out for awhile. I wish someone had given me this heads up because now I am suffering from Butterfinger Bloat and I cannot power kick my way out of it. At least, not yet. 

Buy yourself a subscription to Netflix because Homeland sucks this year and Netflix has every season of Breaking Bad which is officially the best show ever. 

And best of all, use your lumpectomy as an excuse for anything and everything you effin feel like.
Don't feel like going to parent/teacher conference? A lumpectomy. Don't want to take the dogs out? I'm afraid they'll jump on my lumpectomy site. Don't want to listen to your daughter bitch about the theft of her clothes by her sister? My lumpectomy pains me to listen to such a high pitch. Don't want your husband to be in charge of the remote for once? My lumpectomy really feels like watching the last seven episodes of The Mindy Project. 

You still want to stay in your pajamas and slippers nine days after your surgery?

Go ahead and pick up the kids from school rocking your floral jammie pants and pink slippers. It makes your lumpectomy feel better.  

You want to lie in bed all day and google "Ryan Gosling is beautiful"?


Your lumpectomy feels better at the sight of Ryan. Everything feels better at the sight of Ryan. 

You want Mexican food? My lumpectomy is craving chorizo queso.* **


*Yes, that is a real thing my favorite Mexican restaurant makes and it is better than love and puppies and beautiful shoes combined. 

**My Butterfinger Bloat is compounded by Chorizo Queso bloat. 

So, there you have it. The story of my boob, a cautionary tale involving various song lyrics, Criss Angel and Chorizo Queso. I feel like a million kindnesses from the heavens were showered down upon me throughout my journey. My boob story could have easily had a sad ending, but by the Grace of God, I was spared. Something far too many women can never say. Every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Every thirteen minutes, someone dies from this terrible disease. 

Please, my sisters, from the lips of a once stupid girl, check your ta-ta's. Get your annual mammogram. Be your own warrior. Don't let those slips of paper pile up. Don't get around to it one of these days. Do It Now. Make the call. Go get your puppies squashed. It's never too much of a bother. Your loved ones will thank you. 

Today's Definite Download: NoNoNo's "Pumpin' Blood." Because it's such a kicky song it makes me happy. "Cause it's your heart, it's alive, it's pumpin' blood and the whole wide world is whistling." Yes, it is. 

And because it doesn't hurt the ta-ta's when I'm car dancing to this great song. 

Go check your Ta-Ta's. Love you guys. Glad to be back. 
Joann




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