Poetry and musings of a zany Mormon girl who is very proud of her Erda roots.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Today my sister sent me a link to this site: The Scar Project

Here's a little about the project -- taken from the home page.

The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay. Primarily an awareness raising campaign, The SCAR Project puts a raw, unflinching face on early onset breast cancer while paying tribute to the courage and spirit of so many brave young women.

Dedicated to the more than 10,000 women under the age of 40 who will be diagnosed this year alone The SCAR Project is an exercise in awareness, hope, reflection and healing. The mission is three-fold: Raise public consciousness of early-onset breast cancer, raise funds for breast cancer research/outreach programs and help young survivors see their scars, faces, figures and experiences through a new, honest and ultimately empowering lens.
Viewing these brave women who beat a very scary fight against their own bodies and bear/bare the scars from their battles reminded me of my own scars. I forget about them, even when I see them. The same sister who introduced me to The Scar Project also recently made a comment about what I had removed. It took me by surprise because I honestly had forgotten about my surgery -- it doesn't impact my day to day life at all. I remember that it happened, but I forget what life was like before hand.
When I was 13 I came down with pneumonia. I was really sick and missed a lot of school because I couldn't breathe out of doors due to inversion in the valley. My mom took me to see a doctor. All of the appropriate tests were conducted including a chest x-ray to see how cloudy my lungs had become.
The x-ray showed two unexpected things: a shadow in one of my breasts and a slight curve in my spine.
A female doctor came in to administer a breast exam. It was weird. I wasn't really scared, but there was certainly potential to become scared.
The doctor told me that she could discern no lumps or cause for concern. I just had exceptionally large mammary glands. No worries there.
That brings me to the second thing the doctors saw in my chest x-ray: a slight curve in my spine.
My mother has scoliosis. Her curve grew to be 53 degrees, accompanied by a massive hump and constant pain. When I was 12 she had all of us girls x-rayed to determine if we also had scoliosis. My sisters had some curvature but I had a perfectly straight spine. The radiologist was amazed. He said that he had never seen such a straight spine and even if he put a ruler up to my x-ray he wouldn't be able to see even millimeters off of perfect.
When my doctor informed me that I had a noticeable curve at the age of 13, this was a big surprise. He wouldn't have even said anything except that he knew my mother had problems with her scoliosis.
Since the curve hadn't been there just a few months earlier I was sent to a specialist who determined that my growth plates had sealed and the curve was about as bad as it would ever be: 11 degrees. This is barely classified as scoliosis, but considered more on the normal side of spinal curvature. I continued bi-annual and then annual x-rays until I was 18 to make sure that there were no changes. I also attended a few therapy sessions to learn exercises to help strengthen my back muscles so I could cope with the back pain that had developed.
The back pain was bad enough that I had a hard time running in school and sometimes stayed home after a day of track exercises in gym. So, my doctor wrote me a note and printed it out every year to be delivered to my new gym teachers. The note excused me from any mandatory running due to my "pathologically large breasts." I got to walk when everyone else had to run. I thought it was great!
When I was ten years old I went from flat -- just like every other girl I knew -- to a C cup over the course of one summer. I hadn't realized how much I'd grown until school started again and the contrast was extremely evident. During the first week of school I was talking to some friends in a group, left to catch up with some other friends, then returned to the first group. When I got back, two of the girls asked me point blank, "Do you stuff your bra?"
I was horrified.
As my chest continued to grow at an alarming rate, I know that others whispered the same question for the rest of my elementary, junior high, and probably high school.
It was embarrassing. And painful. I was ashamed of my body for my entire teen experience.

When I was 13 my dad first told me about breast reduction surgery as an option. By then I was probably a DD cup.

When I was 15 I began to seriously consider the prospect.

When I was 16 I was fitted by a professional for the first time and discovered that I wore a G cup.

I went home and cried.

When I was 20 I decided to get the surgery.

Constant tension headaches, the expense of finding and purchasing bras that fit correctly, shoulder grooves, skin problems, and a poor body image were more than I could handle.

The real clincher, though, was because my breasts didn't seem to fit my body. I would look at photos or in the mirror and get startled by how large I had become. Every time. I am 5'2" -- G cup breasts overwhelmed my frame.

After my surgery I am still carrying a good deal up top, but I feel very comfortable with my body. The scars are minimal and have healed exceptionally well. In fact, my surgeon recently took several photos because he couldn't believe how well I had healed.

I never get startled by my figure when I look in the mirror.

I love my body.

Even the scars I can't see any more.

For all those women who have suffered more than I can imagine: I am so glad that you have the courage to share your story. Thanks for giving me the courage to tell my own story.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women between the ages of 15 and 40. It's not an old lady's disease. Every woman needs to know how to perform a self breast exam and be aware of changes in her body.

Scars are a blessing given to those who live to heal.  

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