Remember that old song, “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth”? A sincere cry, albeit with a lack-of-dentition lisp, for a physical transformation. Just in time for Christmas.
I’ve had occasion to recall that song in the last few days, as well as one of my favorite Jules Pfeiffer cartoons. In the cartoon, a guy is bemoaning all the things in his life that have been discovered to cause cancer, the most recent being scotch whiskey. In the last panel of the cartoon, he lifts a glass (scotch, of course) and says, “Whoopee! Cancer!”
This year, I got cancer for Christmas. Whoopee! Cancer!
Yeah, yeah, I can hear you screaming. Trust me, it was a gift, and here’s why. I’ve gone for a mammogram every year since I turned 40. That’s fifteen of the suckers. This year, instead of hearing what I’d heard every year before – “see you next year” – I heard this from my radiologist as we looked at my films: ”Hmmm…” There was a “thing”, and he wanted to take a look at it.
Magnification mammography. Stereotactic core biopsy (for this procedure, I highly recommend an IPod
with volume set to “Stun” playing something like the Clash or Pearl Jam). A diagnosis where he actually said, “Well, I’ve got good news and bad news.” You can guess the bad news, right? The good
news is that it’s so small that the only thing that makes it Stage 1 vs. Stage 0 is that it’s an invasive carcinoma.
Why am I telling you about this? I think you probably have an inkling already. Girls, get your mammograms. Get a baseline by 40, and then get one every year after 40. Guys, encourage the girl
you love to get her mammograms. And help her get through what might come after, because it will be infinitely preferable to planning her funeral.
Girls, I know that mammography is a classic example of a medical device made by a man. I know that you feel like you go in a 38C and come out a 42 Long. I know that if guys got screened this way for testicular cancer, there’d be some big changes quick. As much of a pain in the boobs
that mammograms can be, this one saved my life. There was no lump. Who knows when
a lump would have been palpable, and how far this thing would have spread by then? I’m glad I don’t have to learn the answer to that question.
I’m taking this as a gift. I’m also choosing to look at what’s going to get yanked out of me this way – it will be a complete encapsulation of all the anger, resentment, self-doubt, all the crap collected on a 55 year journey. It’s coming out, and I’m moving on.
Since I’m more of a Druid than anything else at this point, I’m marking the Winter Solstice this year as my Yuletide celebration. The end of the darkness, and the return of the sun. An appropriate image for a time in my life where that has, literally, happened.
Happy New Year.