I’m feeling much better today. Well, I’m feeling crappy and humiliated, but MUCH BETTER.
You know that saying about how when God closes a door, he opens a window? Well it’s often like that in my life. Except more like, when one tragedy is averted, crushing embarrassment often steps in to take its place. Gosh, it’s good to be me. Or not. But it’s really the only life I know, so what the hell.
Oh, did you want more information? I’m SO HAPPY you asked! Far be it from me to withhold details! Which, you know, might be a useful skill to develop if I want to limit some of these situations where I feel like a total idiot, but what would be the good in that?
One of the joyful things about being on hormone replacement is that your hormones tend to be much more steady than your normal, pre-menopausal counterparts. No PMS! No mood swings! Except that sometimes your nice even hormonal keel sort of… falls over. In my case, every now and then I notice that I’ve got a little bit too much estrogen going on.
It would be nice if that was something that just sort of announced itself politely, like via a predetermined freckle flashing orange, or maybe your pee turning blue. “Oh!” you could then declare, “it must be time to regulate my estrogen!” Reality is, of course, much less tidy. What happens in my case is that my breasts start to get tender, and after a couple of days I realize that no, it can’t possibly be that Monkey stepped on me one too many times, I’m definitely feeling… off.
The solution is pretty easy. I normally wear my hormone patches on my rear (per manufacturer’s directions!), but I can lessen absorption by wearing them on my back, instead. I guess the further away from where your ovaries used to be that you position the patch, the less your body sucks out the hormones and uses them properly. Yes, that’s the scientific explanation.
Anyway. This has happened before, and I move my patches, and the breast tenderness goes away, and the earth continues to turn. Huzzah!
Anyway, I had the familiar discomfort, I moved my patches, and a week later… only one breast was better. Which was… weird.
So I did what any woman would do in such a situation. I commenced feeling myself up at every possible opportunity to try and figure out what the hell was wrong with my boob. I poked and I prodded and I assure you that it was not nearly as sexy as it sounds. (As unsexy as it sounds, it gets worse, so you might want to stop reading.) There was about a week that went by and I had just about convinced myself that I was, you know, just mentally ill and imagining and also maybe spending too much time alone.
And then over the weekend (while the doctor’s office was CLOSED) I discovered two things that made it clear that I was not imagining and also that I had only glimpsed the very tip of the neurosis iceberg.
Thing the 1st: I found a small lump. Or, at least, I thought I had, but I have fibrocystic (that’s medspeak for “very lumpy”) breasts so I wasn’t positive it was a NEW and/or BAD lump. While lumps are never joyful things, a woman never ever EVER wants to be able to put LUMP and BREAST in the same sentence. But still, fibrocystic! Maybe nothing! Better keep poking, but surely all is fine!
Thing the 2nd: While obsessively mucking around with said (probably nothing) lump, a… ummm… well. Okay. A brackish liquid oozed out of my nipple. YOU’RE WELCOME. No, it doesn’t occur to me to keep these things to myself because as you will soon see, I have no pride left which to protect. So, yes. Yes, I admit it. ME SO SEXY.
Let’s recap. Questionable lump; maybe something, maybe not. Breast that has not produced milk for many years suddenly 1) producing liquid, 2) producing liquid of a dark color that seems quite unnatural.
I did the sensible thing and immediately commenced freaking right the fuck out.
[Sidebar: Obviously I’m fine. Not even I can invent a joke for which the punchline is “And then they told me I have breast cancer!” Heck, even “tumor, I barely even know her!” falls pretty flat. Do not fret. Just read. This is not a tale of deadly disease, just a typical foray into my life as a complete dork.]
Then I consulted my friend Dr. Google, who assured me that it was almost certainly a ductal infection of some sort, but that “any type of discharge from the breast must be checked immediately.”
I spent the remainder of my weekend alternating being worried and just feeling generally crappy because of some cold or something I’d come down with that was really slowing me down.
[Brief interruption here to note that my brain is swiss cheese. In the course of approximately 3 total years of breastfeeding, I had mastitis (a breast infection that can cause flu-like symptoms) THIRTEEN TIMES. Did it occur to me this weekend when I was mentally composing letters to my children to remember me by that perhaps instead of a cold and breast cancer, I had mastitis? No, it did not. Although–in my defense–every other time I’ve had it, I’ve also had searing pain that made me want to gnaw off my own boob. Still. I’m not very bright.]
So. I called the doctor’s office today, and BIG SURPRISE, my own doctor was unavailable. As was the (female) nurse practitioner. But Dr. Backup could see me this afternoon! Now, I do enjoy Dr. Backup, but for matters of boobage I would prefer to see a female doctor. Call me crazy. Nevertheless, only Dr. Backup in all his XY glory was available to see me. Fine.
I farmed out my children (damn school holiday) and headed to the doctor’s office. I had a lovely chat with the nurse and then donned the highly attractive gown she took out for me and waited for Dr. Backup to make his entrance. He appeared in no time at all, at which point I began to babble nonsensically. Seriously. What is the matter with me?
Dr. Backup: Hi, how are you? Long time no see!
Me: Yeah, I know, and this is JUST HOW I was hoping to see you again! Actually, ideally I would be COMPLETELY NAKED, but this’ll have to do.
DB: *laughs nervously* Yes, well, um….
Me: HAHAHAHA! Just kidding! No, this is GREAT! SO HAPPY TO BE HERE!
[we briefly discuss the hormone regulation thing, the sore breasts, the lump, the freaking out]
DB: So let’s see, it says here that you’re having some nipple discharge…?
Me: Yes! It’s… disturbing! And gross! And I can’t seem to stop touching myself, now, and not in a good way, so I thought maybe I’d get checked out.
DB: Okay, well, can you describe it for me?
Me: The touching myself…?
DB: HAHA, no, the discharge.
Me: Oh! Right! HAHAHA! Well, it’s, um, brown. It’s disgusting.
DB: Brown? Really?
Me: Yes. Brownish green, really. If you’re lucky I’ll show you. Your job is really glamorous in ways that people can’t understand, isn’t it?
DB: Heh. Yes indeed.
Me: Anyway, Dr. Google says I have a breast infection. I would like that, I think. Well, not LIKE it, but you know. I would like that more than breast cancer. So let’s have it be a breast infection. Okay?
DB: Well, um, yes, that would be my guess. I’ll have to do an exam. Let me go get an assistant and, um, a slide. Maybe we’ll have a look under the microscope.
Me: What, they don’t want you randomly fondling women without witnesses here?
DB: *on his way out* Hahaha, yes, well, um, be right back.
Me: *thinking to myself* OHMYGOD SHUT UP ALREADY YOU IDIOT.
DB: *returning with a nurse* Okay, I think we’re all set to have a look.
Me: OH GOOD, GREAT, CAN’T WAIT. ANYONE ELSE WANT TO COME IN AND WATCH, TOO?
Nurse: It’s normal to be nervous, dear, but just try to relax.
Me: NO I’M NOT NERVOUS I’M JUST FINE, IN FACT I CANNOT WAIT FOR EVERYONE TO LOOK AT MY FREAKISH OOZING BREAST. GOOD TIMES!
DB: Yes, well, lay back and put your arm under your head for me, please.
Me: OKAY! HEY, DIDN’T YOU JUST HAVE A BABY WHEN I WAS HERE LAST? I MEAN, YOUR WIFE JUST HAD A BABY?
DB: *frozen in place just before he opens my gown* Oh, um, well, he’s two now. I think that was a while ago! Haha! But we’re actually having another baby in April.
Me: OH WOW THAT’S GREAT CONGRATULATIONS BABIES ARE GREAT–
DB: Mir? Just try to relax, okay?
Me: I’M VERY RELAXED! I CAN HARDLY WAIT! WHY AM I SHOUTING?
Nurse: Just take a couple deep breaths, dear.
DB: *opens my gown, performs the time-honored medical technique of doing a breast exam while staring intently at the wall so as to make it absolutely clear that he is not in any way looking at my actual breast* Oh, I see what you mean about the cysts. You’re quite lumpy.
Me: That’s me! Quite lumpy!
DB: –but I’m not feeling anything alarming, here. So that’s good.
Me: Good! Alright then! Okay!
DB: I’d like to express some of that discharge for the slide, but if it doesn’t come easily I may have you do it, since you know your body better.
Me: OKAY! HEY, I’M SHOUTING AGAIN! HAVE AT IT! MOOOOO!
DB: Hmmmm. You know, I think I’ll have you do this.
Me: GREAT! OKAY!
And after a weekend of compulsively poking at and squeezing my breast, I reached down and gave a squeeze and expressed… absolutely nothing.
I kept chattering loudly (“HAHAHAHA WATCH ME NOT BE ABLE TO GET ANYTHING OUT NOW AFTER ALL THIS WORRY! IT’S JUST THAT I DON’T NORMALLY TRY TO EXPRESS GUNK FROM MY BREAST IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE!”) while I slowly flushed from head to toe. My face was so hot that I thought my hair was going to catch on fire. It occurred to me to try it sitting up, and after what seemed like an eternity but was probably only fifteen seconds or so, I triumphantly declared “OH YAY! LOOK! GUNK! QUICK, PUT IT ON YOUR SLIDE!”
Dr. Backup, lord love ‘im, turned to me from where he’d been concentrating pointedly on my chart and NOT LOOKING AT MY BREAST and said, “Oh! Ewww. Okay, lemme get a swab.” He carefully lifted the globule off my nipple and smeared it on the slide while I continued narrating because I could. Not. Shut. Up.
“Yeah, isn’t that GREAT? Wouldn’t YOU freak out if YOUR body produced that?? I’m SO PROUD. This has been REALLY FUN. I’m not quite sure how I’ll top it on my next visit, though!”
Dr. Backup and his nurse left the room chuckling and I collapsed in a heap of embarrassment and self-loathing.
I got dressed and sat there for a minute and Dr. Backup came back in with my chart and a grin.
DB: Good news! I can see bacteria and blood in that sample we took.
Me: Great! I guess!
DB: Well, it IS great, because that’s consistent with some sort of infection. Dr. Google did a good job diagnosing you. *at this he appeared to swallow a chuckle* Anyway, we’ll put you on some antibiotics and that should clear it right up, but if it doesn’t and you’re still having trouble in a week, come back in.
Me: That’s… it?
DB: Yep. I see no reason to do further testing at this point, though as I said, come back in a week if it’s not cleared up and then we can go from there. But I really think it’s just an infection.
Me: Okay. Cool.
DB: That stuff is like snot, you know?
Me: Thank you. You have a way with words.
DB: Heheheh sorry. But it is.
Me: I’M AWARE. THANK YOU.
DB: Well, it’s good to see you again.
Me: Likewise. Of course, I can never show my face here again, but thanks for your help!
And off I went on my merry way, collecting my children and my antibiotics and what tender little shreds of my self-dignity that remained.
I’ve spent the evening doing warm compresses and um, typing this out. Which I think I can safely say is the only entry out of 800-however- many on here which was entirely created while naked from the waist up.
Me so sexy.