I knew that I was going in for a biopsy, maybe a lumpectomy. I was terrified. The possibility of being diagnosed with cancer, coupled with the prospect of losing or disfiguring my breast made me do something crazy and totally uncharacteristic. I had a photo shoot. I wanted to document what may be the last time my boob is intact and what may be the last day of normalcy before getting a horrible diagnosis.
I was a nervous wreck the whole day. I was in unbearable pain, and I was trying so hard not to let it show while I was in class. I was so scared of how painful the mammogram would be. I had to DO something, so I called my sister and asked her if she could do a photo shoot on short notice. Nursing school really taught my little sister about empathy and compassion. She understood my worries, didn’t make fun of me for overreacting and agreed to take tasteful and artistic photographs of my breasts that evening. Connie is not only a super nurse, she is a very good photographer. Thinking about the photo shoot distracted me enough to make it almost to the end of the day without breaking down.
Almost. With 45 minutes left, I couldn’t bear the pain and anxiety anymore. During the last break, I told my group I had to go. One of them is so sweet, sensitive and empathetic, that she asked if I was in pain, if I was scared, and if I was tired. Yes. Yes. Yes. BAWL. I left class in tears. She followed and hugged me and agreed to tell our instructor what is going on, so that she didn’t think I was completely out of whack. I HATE CRYING IN PUBLIC! Unfortunately, I cry easily. I had to stop the tears, so that I could go home, put on make-up, and prepare to photograph my naked breasts- an act way out of my comfort zone.
Written right after the photo shoot: a eulogy for my breasts
“I hope I will look back on tonight’s photo shoot as documentation of my breast cancer scare. Just in case it does turn out to be cancer, I wanted to create a photographic memory of my breast b.c.d. I know that if I didn’t do it, and I ended up having surgery tomorrow, I would kick myself for not having artistically tasteful pictures of my breasts. I want to have a visual memento of my left breast before it is gone or altered. And if it is just a scare and nothing else, now is as good a time as any to photograph a part of my body that I love so much before time takes its toll. I do not fear the ravages of time and aging. I welcome them now. I embrace them and desire them.
I know many women who are dissatisfied with their breasts. I have never been dissatisfied. Amused, pleased, awed, grateful, occasionally irritated and curious, yes. I have loved my breasts since before they even started budding. I knew there was a special power in them.
I’ve been small-breasted from the get-go and completely pleased by my neat, petite, perfectly perky breasts: my favorite part of my body.
My delight with my breasts increased along with their size and fullness throughout each of my pregnancies. I was one sexy momma with a fabulous cleavage.
My breasts nourished my three children for a grand total of seven years. They were my babies’ sole source of nourishment in their first half-year. They were the venue, instrument and organ of emotional nourishment into their toddler years. I was a proud nursing momma, never ashamed to nurse my children, no matter what the time, location or situation. I encouraged other moms to nurse their babies and offered guidance and support. I became a lactivist and an expert on all things nursing related.
Each child had a special name for my lactating breasts. Sophia called them “na.” Sebastian called them “nummy.” Olivia still calls my breasts “malama.” These days the kids call them my “boobies.”
I thank my breasts for their beauty, for the pleasure they have allowed me to experience and for nurturing my children. My breasts have been the embodiment of life force, love, power and strength for me. I have always loved my breasts, even when they got a little deflated and became teeny tiny after weaning my third nursling.
- Pneumatic inflating action before my very eyes when my milk came in with Sebastian.
- Spraying milk clear across the room with the force of a pressure washer when Sophia’s cries triggered my let-down reflex.
- Rock hard and painful, putting me out of my mind with agony with engorgement after Olivia was born.
- Blissed out oxytocin high during nursing sessions.
I love my breasts in any way, shape, function or form they happen to take. It is not vanity. It is gratitude and joy. I want to look back on today’s photo shoot as the night of the breast cancer scare. I am so scared that tonight’s pictures will be pictures of the last moment of normalcy and innocence in my life.
I will be brave. I will be strong. I will survive. I will be an old woman with perky tiny breasts with stories of generations to tell.”