I’ve been told that I’m fun to be with and I always make people laugh. I won’t deny that from the reactions of those who are able to hang with me, but I can safely say that anyone traveling with me will always experience an adventure to remember. Even I am delightfully surprised at the territories into which I aimlessly wander. It’s as if God has blessed me with some special kind of knack that draws me into jars of pickles and light-hearted jams. He then allows me to escape unscathed with lasting memories of the situations, which always turn out to be funny….well, most of ’em. Maybe they’re not at the moment, but always during the hilarious reminiscing, I think of “how the hell did I get into that shit?” Here is one of a few of my stories.
GOING TO THE WUERZBURG ARMY HOSPITAL WITH MY FRIEND, BILLY and DEEP IN THOUGHTS ON THIS “THING in MY BREAST.”
OK, so, I’ve got another lump in my breast. Big deal. I’m not worried about it like I was back in 1987 when I discovered my very first one. Back then, it was a shocker, because I had never experienced anything like this before. Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family. And as for this damned lump, I thought that everything on earth had to stand still for me. Everyone had to stop and take care of me. I wanted the doctor to just cut the damn thing out or something so I could get back to living my life. Actually, I was deathly afraid of what it might be. I wasn’t ready for any bad news the biopsy might bring. The doctor told me that he would have to perform an aspiration. An aspiration? What the hell is that? I asked with morbid curiosity, but I was afraid of the answer. It sounded grave and serious and painful. I was right on all those counts. So the aspiration was the first step for me to get all the dirt on this thing, which had invaded my breast.
The doctor explained that the aspiration would entail him sticking a large needle in my chest and, hopefully, draw out the fluid from the seat of my lump. He said it would “sting a bit.” Yeah, right! I wanted to tell him to try it first on himself, but I knew better. Fortunately, the doctor had more patience than I had common sense. I should have taken care of this with monthly breast exams, but no, I had no time. Truthfully, I took no time to check my own breasts. I had no time to notice that the pea-sized lump, which I felt three months ago, had ballooned to the size of a walnut. Sadly, I took no time for me.
The doctor gave me a light sedative and calm my nerves. I felt he should have given me the whole damn bottle to knock me out cold for this procedure. But that wasn’t my call. And so it went, the doctor got the needle, which was about a foot long. I was mortified and thought I would die of sheer fright just from the sight of the size of the needle. But I sucked it up like an old trooper. It didn’t hurt at all; the frightening part was seeing the needle poking out of my breast. After the aspiration was done, the doctor discovered that it was dark brown fluid, a color, which told the doc that it wasn’t serious. The doctor counseled me that I still needed to do monthly breast exams. He said he still needed to send the results to the lab for tests. That was years ago, and my health habits to do monthly breast exams haven’t improved. I figure that if you’re gonna go, you gotta go with something, right?
I had gone through many aspirations after that because of other lumps, which the doctor said would plague me throughout my life because of something called fibrocystic disease. Something I’d have to live with. I’d still have to have regular check-ups, mammograms, and do my self-breast exams, etc. I’ll get to the mammograms later. As many times as I’ve had aspirations, I still hate them almost as much as I hate mammograms. And after going through this latest aspiration, the doctor discovered that the lump was a stubborn one, which gave up no fluid. He said it had to come out. I wasn’t afraid like I was the first time I heard those words back in 1991 at Landstuhl Army Hospital, in Landstuhl, Germany. Really, for some reason, I wasn’t afraid. I knew God had my back because He still had some work for me to do. I just wanted the doctor to cut the damn thing out and if he had time, to liposuction some of the unwanted, stubborn fat loitering around my waistline for the last three years. He nixed that with a slight laugh. Anyway, I was set for surgery on 16 August 2000.
Billy, a Retired Veteran and good friend of mine came to pick me up at 7:00 the morning of my surgery. Retirees take care of one another. We have a bond for life. Billy’s truly a blessing in disguise: always dependable and easy to talk to about anything. He drove me to the Wuerzburg Army Hospital. He even stayed throughout the surgery and took me back home to Vilseck a three-hour round trip from Wuerzburg, Germany.
He stayed quiet most of the way there because he knew I was worried and he felt I needed his support more than anything. He also knew that I would want some the time to myself to think through this lump in my breast. I anticipated that the weather would turn out to be beautiful even though the sun hadn’t showed its face yet. It was still slightly cool. A light fog hung close to the ground and limited Billy’s visibility. As the sun gradually rose and fought to break through the thick fog, the atmosphere took on the smoky eeriness of an early morning deep in a southern swamp. Billy drove farther up the road, and the fog gave way to the powerful sun, which rose higher and easily pushed its way through the thick fog, making the temperature a bit warmer but pleasant. I chatted with Billy for a while but felt myself talking in gibberish, so naturally I started drifting off because of the perfect temperature inside his truck and the beautiful peaceful scenery floating by, which mesmerized me. I used my knapsack as a makeshift pillow to lay my head down. Mind you, I didn’t drift off to sleep because Billy was boring. He’s never boring. But I was so comfortable, not too hot, not too cool, but it took me all the way back to snuggling under my baby blanket in my baby crib.
I don’t know how long I slept, but I remember waking up, still sluggish from my comforting nap. After admiring the colorful array of yellow, purple and white wildflowers and the stately green trees standing guard on the sides of the road, the first thing I remember saying to Billy was, “Billy, have you ever been camping?” I don’t know why the hell I asked him that because I knew we weren’t going camping. Both of us had been on countless field exercises in the Army and they were nowhere near the fun of camping. Billy laughed out loud and responded with, “Camping? I’ve been in the Army too, remember?” Then he laughed some more, not at me but at the ridiculousness of my first question to him upon waking up.
My thoughts brought me back to this thing in my breast. On my doctor’s orders, I had to schedule periodic mammograms at Landstuhl Army Hospital to check on any changes in my breast tissues. Mammograms are no fucking fun at all. I dreaded them more than a combined PT test and a trip to the dentist. I always have to grit my teeth and draw up my face as if I’m smelling rotten chitterlings before I plop one breast on the plate glass as another plate glass comes down and smashes my breast like it was a rubber ball in a vise. I had to stand this excruciating pain for about 5 seconds for this one snapshot of one breast. Then I had to plop my other breast on the plate glass for the same excruciating agony of this examination.
To be absolutely graphic, realistic, and give you men an idea of how this might feel to you, what’s one of the most sensitive parts of your body? Your balls, right? Just imagine your family jewels being placed on a slab of 1 1/2 inch plate glass and the another piece of 1 1/2 plate glass comes down and smashes your balls and flattens them down to the size of a thin slice of baloney. You have to stand there in that position so that the technician can read the X-ray to see if anything abnormal shows up. Like I said, the smashing lasts about 5 seconds, which is way more than enough time to make any man cry like a baby, piss his pants, slump to the floor of the radiology room, and get into the fetal position with your hands between your legs as if that will help the pain subside. It won’t.
But women are tougher in this respect. Whenever my mammogram was done, I’d carefully put on my support bra first then the rest of my clothes. Yes, my girls would still be tender to touch for a while, but believe you me and I’m saying this with the utmost, absolute serious conviction, if anyone (child, woman, old person, whoever) had accidentally bumped into me on my way out of the hospital, I’d be hauled off to jail and charged with murder in the first degree.