El Verano

photoOne month and three weeks. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve posted a new entry on Vessel. It was May 23, and I was recovering from a tough semester, falling in love with Kitty Kitty Cat, celebrating my nieces’ high school graduations, and looking forward to summer reunions with the Belize women and the Desnud@s, family vacation in Chama, and a project I’d worked hard to land.

I have started many blog posts in my head and in the pages of my journals:

I don’t know where to begin.
I haven’t forgotten…
What can I say?

I’ve come up with titles:

Little People
Writing Again
At Least I Don’t Have Cancer
The Finish Line

Most Tuesdays and Wednesdays (and even some Thursdays) I wake with the faintest hope that I will have an idea, that today I will write a complete piece. Today will be the day that gets me back on track.

And then the day ends, and I have failed to write about the phone call after the mammogram, how they are “concerned” about a “spot,” and I need to come in for an ultrasound, and all I can think about is that I can’t have cancer because my mom’s never had it, and I’m in good health, and I don’t feel cancerous. But maybe that’s what every person with cancer thinks right before they’re told they have cancer. I go to MayoClinic.com.

Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:

Being female.

Well, yes, I am female. Shit. But I don’t have a personal or family history. I’ve never been tested for the gene. I’m not obese. I did not start my period at an early age. Haven’t hit menopause. Haven’t given birth since turning 35.

And having never been pregnant.

I have never been pregnant.

I am thinking of a conversation with my Grandma China. It was the day after my grandparents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary celebration. Tíos and cousins and nephews and nieces were all around, eating and telling stories and laughing. My sister-in-law, first cousin, and other cousin’s wife were pregnant with their first. I was standing in Grandma’s kitchen, eating a bowl of posole when she cornered me.

“Michelley, when are you gonna have a baby?”

There’s no correct way to answer a question like that, and though my grandma was the only person I knew who said exactly what was on her mind all the time, I was always a little shocked when she turned her lens on me in this way. She had a lot of praise for me, loved me fiercely, and celebrated my academic achievements in ways that embarrassed me. (“We’ll take that other pair too,” she said, handing her credit card to the clerk. “We can’t have Michelley walking around Harvard with old, ugly shoes.”) Her words could strip me. It didn’t happen often, but often enough that I wondered if she had her own relationship with that voice in my head that doubted I would ever find a mate and have a family of my own, that doubted whether anything else I had accomplished mattered.

“It’s kind of a two-person job, Grandma.”

“You don’t have to get married. Just have a baby.”

“Thanks, Grandma.”

The earliest the clinic could see me was the following Tuesday. I told Henry. We waited the weekend. I don’t have sisters (well, none who came from my parents). I didn’t want to speak it. Language is power. Language creates reality. (After everything, a letter dated the same day as the phone call arrived. On the list of items one should cover over the phone, the letter said that many women get called back for follow up appointments and that many of these follow ups do not result in cancer diagnoses. But I didn’t know that going into the follow up appointment.)

Another set of x-rays. More getting my boobs pinched between metal plates, tilting my chin back like I’m posing under a waterfall. Breathe. Relax. Almost done. Hmmm, we still see a spot. Lie down. We’re going to squeeze some gel. It will feel cold. Ink blot on the screen. What is that? Another tech. More gel. More electronic mouse under my nipple. Back and forth. In circles. Two sets of scrubs staring at a screen. One says to the other, It’s weird, right? And then one says to me, “Weird stuff is better than bad stuff. It’s better than last week. Everyone had cancer.”

I don’t have cancer. I have weird, lumpy breasts and a propensity to worry over things I can’t control. But I don’t have cancer. I have no sisters, the memory of my grandmother, a family, two children I love and did not carry in my womb. And I don’t have cancer. I don’t have cancer. I don’t have cancer.

Next Week: The Pit or SAD or No Fancy!

Published in: on July 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m so glad you don’t have cancer. I hate the way they don’t tell you over the phone or in the letter or both, that often times you get called back to for a follow up on a mammogram and that that in and of itself should not cause you to panic. I had the same thing happen to me, a shadow they wanted to take another look at. I waited in absolute fear for two weeks to find it really was nothing more than a shadow.

    • Thank you for your good wishes and for sharing your own story, Leiah. I am sorry for your scare, but so glad it turned out to be a shadow. Please see Pilar’s comment on thermography. I’m going to investigate.

  2. Glad you’re fine. It’s good to hear your voice again.

    • Thank you, Mary. It’s nice to be back.

  3. Happy to be reading your words again. I love your voice and stories. I’m sorry for the scare, but relieved for you. So much of what you write about resonates with me….finding a partner, being childless, worrying too much. By the way, my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer. It’s always been something I’ve thought about. I’ve done some research that mammograms are not the most effective (or holistic) way to determine breast health. They often cause scares such as the one you had, which only cause excessive worrying. Thermography or heat screenings are a safer and more effective route to take, but unfortunately most health insurance doesn’t cover them. Thermography is what my mama does instead of mammograms, there’s a place in Albuquerque that she goes to. Much love to you, Michelle!

    • Thank you, Pilar, for reading and for reflecting. So much of you write in your blog resonates with me! Thank you also for letting me know about thermography. It sounds humane and holistic and a much more sane approach to our health. Que en paz descanse tu bendita abuela.

  4. Ahhh Hermana, I’m sorry that you had to live with fear but I’m so happy you do not have cancer. I love you and you do have a sister, not by blood but by law…I didn’t like having so little time with you and Henry but I still look back on our dinner together, I so enjoyed my time with you two. I love you.

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