40. My Lovely Lady Lumps

40. My Lovely Lady Lumps

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

My Lovely Lady Lumps

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.

~Author Unknown

My breasts. They started growing when I was about eleven. I woke up one morning and felt these funny hard things and thought something was wrong with me.

When I asked my mom what the heck was going on, she smiled with pride and said, “Oh honey, you’re starting to develop.”

Since Judy Blume’s book, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. was the hottest novel among my peers at the time, I breathed a sigh of relief that I was on the fast track to becoming a woman.

Once my breasts began to appear through my T-shirts (with my name ironed on in metallic, rainbow letters circa early-1980’s fashion), it was time to get fitted for my first bra. Mom insisted on taking me to a “professional” — an old Russian lady with bifocals and big, scary hands. I’m sure I gasped when she reached toward my new “little lady lumps” to take my measurements.

I vividly remember when a boy touched my breasts for the first time. We had already kissed so I knew “second base” was next. I was scared out of my mind but when it actually happened . . . well . . . since my parents will likely read this, let’s just say it was a positive experience and leave it at that.

I always had small breasts, but they were pretty and appropriate for my petite frame. They stood as tall as they could in my pretty pink prom dress. And on my wedding day, they were propped up nicely with a beautiful white strapless bra. I nursed both of my daughters with my little lady lumps and loved the bond that created.

As I approached my mid-thirties, my mother strongly encouraged me to get tested for the BRCA breast and ovarian cancer gene. She and several other women in our family had tested positive for it (including her mother, her mother’s sister, her cousin . . . the list goes on). At first, I was apprehensive. But I decided it would be better to know if I had it so I could take the right precautions. I was about thirty-five when I went for the blood test and learned I was positive for the gene and . . . it sucked, there’s no other way to describe it. But at least I knew ahead of time that I was at risk.

I was about thirty-five when I went for the blood test and learned I was positive for the gene.

Every six months I had either an MRI, a clinical exam, or a mammogram. I felt like I was surrounded by a force field of protection because I was so closely monitored.

Until one day, during an exam, a not-so-nice lump was discovered in my left breast. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” I said to the nurse, “I just saw my doctor.” She gently patted me on the back and sent me off to have my mammogram in the next room.

A biopsy revealed that I did indeed have breast cancer. When the doctor told me, I felt the room spinning around me. As a course of treatment, I chose to get a bilateral mastectomy.

Alas, I had to say goodbye to my lovely lady lumps. When I took my last shower with them I knew I was saying goodbye.

Modern science is pretty amazing. I was told I would wake up from surgery with littler lady lumps. The doctor didn’t say it like that; he said I would feel like I had little baby breasts because they would insert a small implant to begin the reconstruction process.

I had to do chemotherapy before I could dive into breast reconstruction. It was definitely a long road, and a long mourning period over the loss of my little lady lumps.

Now, more than three years later, I’m happy to report that my new (not so little) lady lumps are doing just fine. I’m still me.

I have a very slight scar across each of my breasts. At first, when I saw them in the mirror, I hated them and hated what happened to me.

But as time marches on and my survival is evident, I see them as a sign of strength. Like stamps in my passport, they show where I’ve been.

My little lady lumps. They are still me. They are beautiful.

~Melissa Berry

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