I wasn't planning on publicly sharing this, but after watching a variety of different types of posts on social media yesterday (which was International Women's Day for whatever that means and whoever made that up and whatever that's supposed to fix) I decided to go ahead and share this experience I just walked through. I think it encapsulates a lot about what it's like to be a woman and I don't share it to get sympathy or attention, but because I feel like I can and most women that go through these types of things don't talk about it, so I hope it can teach somebody something. Also, I'm not sharing certain parts of it to hurt anybody or to be vindictive, but simply because it's part of my truth and part of my story.
Wednesday, last week. My phone rings. "The doctor would like you to come back in for a follow-up..." and then my brain just shuts down.
You see,
It's not just about the lump.
It's about all the stuff that comes with it.
To begin, please understand that women's health care to me historically has meant lack of control or consent, great trauma, and abandonment. My first husband left me at the hospital during a medical procedure so he could go have a tryst with his newest lover, a man he was supposed to be fellowshipping back into our church. I also had three difficult pregnancies. The first, a fall and the near premature birth of my first son, the second, loss of twins in the first trimester, and the third, a traumatic birth of my second son in which I almost died and then had to have a hysterectomy to save my life. All of these events were made worse by a husband who I felt was emotionally unavailable during crisis. I'd find out why later.
So.......2012 was a really hard year.
My mom got breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy, began radiation and chemotherapy, my then father-in-law got thyroid cancer and died within 2 weeks of being diagnosed, my mom's sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy, an aunt and uncle on my then husband's side of the family died, and I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease.
As I moved into 2013, all kinds of weird things were happening in my marriage.It was empty and disconnected and I didn't know why.
I was slipping into a depression. The only thing that kept me going was teaching in my art studio and painting.
The last few sexual encounters I had had with my then husband were upsetting. I stopped having sex with him in the late summer.
And became increasingly numb.
We got Netflix and I utilized it heavily 😅😢
We were going on now 4 years without health insurance of any kind. With 4 small and active boys, this was a constant stresser.
It was in this environment that I found a lump in my left breast.
I didn't tell anybody. I was...... glad.
I was going to keep it a secret and just let myself die of breast cancer and then everybody could be happy and move on with their lives. It was the solution to all my problems.
After 2 months my survival instincts kicked in, and I jumped online and found that Utah had a cancer program that covered uninsured women.
I went in and had a mammogram done, which led to an ultrasound and a biopsy and eventually to the removal of the lump, which was non-cancerous. I really didn't want my then husband involved in any of this, but I continued to invite him to the appointments in the hope that he would show up emotionally for me. He had not seen my body in about 6 months, but there I was laying on this biopsy table, freezing, with my breast exposed while him and this young hot shot doctor spent the entire appointment talking about cars and hiking. For me, it was utterly dehumanizing.
I was very much out of my body for most of this experience. I had not yet learned how to trust myself, how to be in my body again, how to ground myself during trauma, or even that I was worth doing those things for at all.
I had not been back for a breast exam or mammogram since that experience. It took a lot, I mean a lot for me to show up to this appointment a few weeks ago. So you see, I knew the call might not mean the worst, but when I got that call, it wasn't just about the lump. It was about all this other stuff.
And new stuff, like I'm a single mom now and I work full time and surgery is scary, expensive, and painful. And cancer is scary, and my mom and two of her sisters that have had breast cancer now. And, I want a date and find love again, and I kind of feel like I need my boobs, you know?
And other things like the often dehumanizing or over sexualizing of women even in their healthcare experiences. I find it absolutely mind boggling that more than half the population of the world is women and yet policies and medical procedures come out of a patriarchal society which looks upon women's concerns as something that is a bother or uncomfortable.
I find it absolutely insane that women feel uncomfortable talking about their breasts or their periods, or pregnancy and birth. It absolutely blows my mind that women on a regular basis feel like they must mutilate their bodies on purpose through plastic surgery so that they can look like some kind of porn-fueled ideal so they're boyfriend or husband won't be grossed out because their labia is the "wrong shape" or they have too much body hair, or their boobs are too small or changed because they nursed their child, or their stomach got mushy and scarred after their Cesarean!
So it's not simple. It's never just a medical procedure for a woman. Because every woman has "the stuff that comes with it" whether it be past history, religious beliefs, cultural baggage or generational trauma.
For me personally, I got so much healing from this thing which started out full of fear and ended up being reparative.
I'm so grateful that the universe provides me opportunities to have corrective experiences. Because this time around, I was able to voice my needs. I didn't feel like there was lack of consent. My doctors and technicians were extremely sensitive and timely in their diagnostic procedures, I knew tools to be able to reset my nervous system, and I had a strong support system to reach out to that was full of safe and wonderful warrior women who could hold space for me, along with a great therapist who helped bring this previously banished and voiceless part of myself into safety and integration and I feel GOOD.
And everything is fine! The masses were cysts. And cysts are safe.
Every day should be International Women's Day until every woman is able to have corrective experiences to fix all the wrongs that have been done to their bodies, spirits, and minds. And then until no more corrective experiences are needed!
Written March 2020