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Thursday, 20 May 2010


In a woman's life there are a few word couplings guaranteed to strike fear into her heart and mind; that cause her to rethink priorities and spend several long hours consumed with disbelief, fear, regret and anger. Let me try a few on for size for you.

Credit card ("surely I didn't spend so much?!") Root canal ("It's really going to hurt, isn't it") Hang over ("why did I drink all that champagne?") It's over ("I can't believe that creep broke up with me when I did so much for him!")

Or this one. Breast cancer.

Cancer is not particular about how it selects its victims. There's no protocol sheet or democratic voting system. It doesn't base its assessment on looks, age, wealth or how well you did in your Year 12 English exam. It pops on a blindfold, spins itself around and whoever it next touches it shrieks "you're it" and that's it. You’re it.

A few years ago, I had this persistent ache under my left arm, near the side of my breast. Not so bad that I needed analgesics, but bad enough that it caused concern. Of course I ignored it. Of course I said nary a word to anyone. And of course I worried and allowed my over active imagination to run riot.

I performed breast examinations almost hourly and each time drew the same conclusion - what exactly is a breast supposed to feel like? I mean, I've never felt another woman's breast, only my own, so I've nothing to compare it to. I had no idea how my breasts were meant to feel on a good day let alone a bad one.

Dear God, please forward breast manual at your earliest convenience.

I asked a few males what breasts feel like and felt like an idiot when they replied "they feel great". Doh.

It was nothing more than my fervent wish to avoid leaving my daughter motherless that led me to my doctor. She informed me that the pain under my arm was no more than muscular.

Then she went on to say that she was more concerned, however, about a small lump that was no where near the offending ache, and that it should be "checked out".

Hello Wesley Breast Clinic. Attire - unflattering wrap-around gown which conveniently comes in four sizes; large, larger, huge and tent. As much tea as you can drink and more magazines than bad outfits at the Oscars.

A mammogram is not an inspirational experience. Why not just lie down on the freeway and let cars drive over my breasts. Surely that would be more comfortable. I would not have thought it was physically possible to squash a breast to the thickness of a slice of bread. How wrong I can be.

It wasn't so much this constant squashing, and getting my boobs handled by a stranger and flopping them on to cold x-ray trays. It was more the insensitive design element of the machine. There's literally nowhere to put the rest of your body while your breast is being contorted. This machine puts your boob in a vice-like grip and it's up to you to put your body in some form of a holding pattern while the x-ray is taken. My face was jammed up against hard perspex casing, my arms were draped on sharp corners of the machine, I'm naked from the waist up and the door to the room is open.

Hello, I'm in hell.

Did a man design this? Who's designing the machine that checks testicles for cancer? I want to be part of that creative team.

I also had to have a biopsy. "Oh it's a very simple procedure," the medical attendant assured me. I'm still trying to figure out how inserting a six inch needle directly into my breast is simple, but clearly that's how it's viewed. And I got to pay for the privilege. They even accepted Visa.

Fortunately the upshot was a cancer-free result. Just some sort of fatty tissue mass sort of thing. Whatever that is. All I knew was that there was no cancer.

The thing is, fabulous women like Kylie Minogue and Olivia NJ can fall prey to the lecherous destroying tentacles of cancer. So what are the odds for average women like you and me who day to day go about doing our jobs, raising our kids, loving our men and paying back our credit cards?

Statistics say one in eight women will get breast cancer. If you have seven girlfriends who are cancer-free, go to the doctor now.

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