Archives for the month of: May, 2013

tumblr_lp8bkgptxp1qiej2io1_400A few months ago (maybe a year? Time whizzes past my head these days and I can honestly say I don’t know how long it’s been, which scares me to no end.), I noticed The Lump under my arm. Not really my armpit and not really my breast—sort of hanging out in the space between my stubble and my sleeve–it started out as a swollen place that aggravated me when I pushed on it. So I stopped pushing on it.

Last month I was dressing for a wedding. I had bought a lovely, sleeveless, hot pink dress. A-line, belted, and flattering, I was excited to wear it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw The Lump. This thing that I’d been ignoring had stealthily grown up and out. It hurt. It was painful to touch and painful to be touched by anything. There was no solid cyst or lump to hang on to—just a blob of fatty tissue that nagged at me, felt uncomfortable, and looked rather unsightly. I chose to ignore it, hoping it would yet go away.

A week later I received a call from my doctor who needed to run blood tests in order to continue renewing my thyroid medication. It had been two years since my last appointment and I couldn’t keep shirking my physician. I made an appointment and kept it, despite my lack of health insurance. While there, I used the opportunity to discuss a couple of troublesome issues: the ongoing tightness in my chest since my 8-week bout of bronchitis and The Lump. She donned latex gloves and started massaging the offending mass. Then she leaned against the wall and heaved a rather large and exasperated sigh. “That has to come out,” she said. “I don’t know what it is but I don’t like it. Make an appointment with a plastic surgeon and let them biopsy it.”

Oh, yeah…the “B” word. I was already dealing with two masses on my thyroid that I’d been avoiding since my last ultrasound and after yet another round of imaging later that day, I was able to breathe easier when it was confirmed that neither had grown in two years. A reprieve from the neck up. The neck down, however, was another story. I made an appointment for one week later and turned up at the plastic surgery center a day late, due to a conflict between what I was told and what was on my referral note.

My doctor was ridiculously young. He had a whitehead on the side of his nose that I couldn’t stop staring at. I kept thinking that with all of the laser dealies and rejuvenating jobbies and pretty young estheticians running around, he should have been able to get somebody to pop that bad boy before seeing patients. He looked at The Lump. He poked it. He prodded it. He grabbed it. He fondled it. It hurt and I wanted to hit him. Then he decided a breast exam was in order.

Erm…what? I expected him to say that I had some fatty deposit, we could cut it out in the office, and I’d be on my way to wearing sleeveless tops again in a month. What I didn’t expect was the order for a bilateral diagnostic mammogram, followed by a sonogram, to be done ASAP (which, in my world, means another two weeks as I wait on my health insurance to kick in).

I came home sick and scared and tearful. I love The Girls. Having reached an age where everything is moving east to west and then south, The Girls are still hanging in there—perky, responsive, and utterly perfect. They have nurtured my child during his first year and I often use them to divert my husband’s attention during an argument or stressful conversation. A gay male friend of mine (the only one who could ever get away with such a statement) recently told me (in church, no less) that I had “a nice rack.” Yeah, I was tickled.

This week, Angelina Jolie underwent a radical bilateral mastectomy to avoid getting breast cancer. She of the beautiful, bountiful breasts, sacrificed them to potentially save her life after discovering she carried a gene that gave her an 87% chance of being diagnosed with it. A few years ago, cancer was unheard of in my family. We had strokes and some heart disease, but cancer wasn’t an issue…until my favorite aunt was diagnosed with advanced, acute breast cancer. Having endured 15 hours of surgery to remove and then reconstruct her breasts, in addition to full-on follow-up therapies, she is convalescing nicely but will remain on chemo pills for 10 years.

I ignored the signs. I ignored The Lump. It may be nothing. It may be a lipoma or a shiny node or some other benign, unnamed, easily rectified thingamajig. I’ve waited for months (years?) to deal with The Lump, but now that I have, I feel this incessant need to hurry up and find out what I’m faced with. I have no earthly idea how I would handle losing one, or both, of The Girls. I’d like to say that my self-worth isn’t tied to my awesome boobies, but that would be a lie—they are seriously awesome. I’d like to say that it would be no sweat to hack them off and replace them with some radical tattoos, but the truth is, I’m quite fond of them and…I’m scared. Even though this is horribly premature and hopefully unwarranted, I am giving voice to my fear. I admit that I am terrified and worried and obsessing. I should be working and yet I am recording my fears for posterity (or however long WordPress blogs remain in the Internet ether). I feel ashamed of myself for ignoring The Lump and I hate that I have to live with it for even one more day, much less two more weeks, and then who knows how long after that. I want it gone, I want a clean bill of health, and I want to keep The Girls. I want to live long and never be faced with tough decisions that might be necessary to live my life.

I want never again to have to write posts like this one.

 

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vintage_wedding_groom_carrying_bride_newlyweds_card-r992e137e1e7a4ad8b043304288939dc8_xvua8_8byvr_512This is the first anniversary of the devastating passing of Amendment One to the Constitution by the State of North Carolina. As of this writing, 11 states have now passed marriage equality. We are currently awaiting two rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States that will determine federal marriage equality. My home state continues to dig itself further and further into a hole of right-wing “moral” majority defiance and indignation. I continue to be both saddened and appalled. This was written after the first time Liam and I applied for a marriage license as part of the We Do Campaign. Early this spring, we participated a second time and were again turned down. In honor of our ongoing work toward marriage equality. I am reprinting this story that originally appeared on my other blog.

 In May of 2004, my then partner of 11 years and I cried tears of joy to learn that the Massachusetts Supreme Court had decided it was unconstitutional to allow only heterosexual couples to marry. On May 17th we sat in our car outside our tiny town hall and waited for the doors to open, chatting with the one other couple there. There had been no formal proposal; no engagement; no long, drawn out wedding plans—because we had a child together, it was the thing to do, and so we did. When we entered the town clerk’s office at 8 a.m. we filled out the request for marriage license, handed over our respective identification, and were one of the first lesbian couples in the country to receive a marriage license.

And so, when I found myself standing at the registry of deeds in Winston Salem, North Carolina, on May 10th, 2012, with my partner of 3 years (although we’ve known each other for 28, but that’s a long story for another time), I had an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu and an unrealistic sense of expectation.

Unrealistic, because just two days earlier, this state that is once again my home state (the state that I grew up in) passed an amendment to the constitution banning gay marriage even though gay marriage has been illegal in North Carolina for 16 years. We were not there to get a marriage license. We were there as part of a peaceful protest organized by the grassroots Campaign for Southern Equality and we were joined by nine other GLBTQ couples and more than 100 supporters. The scene bore little resemblance to that chilly, quiet early May morning in Massachusetts and yet I still had this nagging point of excitement in my gut that had nothing to do with the media frenzy or the many faces of the county workers that stared down at us from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls that circled the courtyard in which we gathered for a blessing before our act of civil disobedience.

We had walked, undeterred by any antagonistic protestors, from a loft a few blocks away. A long, determined chain of average folks: young and old and middle-aged (us) and black and white and not and some with kids and some without and clergy in the front and police on bikes alongside and cameras following our every footstep and we each held our partner’s hand. Because that’s what you do in the face of adversity. You cling to the person you love and you show the world that you aren’t some monster that is going to rape and pillage and convert their kids as you’ve been so recently portrayed on television and in the papers.

And so we walked.

And when we arrived we circled the wagons and we were surrounded by loving support from all sides. We were blessed in prayer and we were led by the organizers of this incredible action into the building and up the escalator (or was it stairs—the details have become blurred by the whirlwind of the before and after, the little things slip away from me as the days go by). We stood in line, holding fast to one another and watched each couple enter the glass-walled “room of decision,” flanked by the director, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, at least one support person from the Campaign for Southern Equality, and any family or friends who had come along for moral support. Some couples came out so quickly I wasn’t sure that they had even been asked for their identification. It all seemed to be happening too fast. I was becoming angry. I wanted to have a speech prepared–something profound, something scathing, something that would go down in history. And still, for some inane reason, I kept expecting things to be different for us. I joked with my partner to use a really low voice and maybe we could trick them, forgetting for a moment that our identification would immediately give us away. Forgetting for a moment why we were there in the first place.

We could hear the roar of the crowds as each couple emerged into the huge group of supporters outside. They were cheering their bravery. We were buoyed by the energy, fueled by the wave of radical love. And before I knew it we were being ushered into the inner sanctum. Joined by a beloved young adult from our church, the three of us were beckoned to the far end of the long desk. I had a vision of a line of grave countenances of the county workers seated at their stations and behind them a sea of photographers, cameras everywhere. Right in our faces. All thoughts of saying anything coherent went out of my head.

I was holding my driver’s license, my social security card, and, in my other hand, a wallet-sized photo of my son, wrinkled and damp from my sweaty palm. I wanted to show it to the woman at the desk. I wanted to show to everyone. I wanted to hold it up to the cameras and tell them that this 11-year-old boy is who we were fighting for. We were a family. We needed civil rights afforded us under the constitution so that my son could be protected at all costs. I wanted them to know that we were just an average family with jobs and a great church and a dog and a cat and this incredible kid and two old cars and a huge family of friends and…and…and…my voice died in my throat and my partner was requesting a marriage license and the woman was blankly telling us that “it was against the law of the state of North Carolina to issue a marriage license to anyone other than one man and one woman.”

No.

Oh, no.

No!

That weirdly irrational, stupidly unrealistic part of me just threw up a little bit in my mouth. I knew why we were there. I’m not a dumb woman, far from it. But dammit, I’m also an idealist and a dreamer and somehow I thought it would all turn out alright. I thought that if I could get a marriage license on a chilly, quiet May morning and marry someone to whom I had to pay an enormous amount of money to divorce just two years later (because sometimes you should really take the time to think things through before you leap into something just because it’s legal), then I should be handed a stupid piece of paper legalizing the big gay wedding I’d shared with my partner just seven months prior.

I felt deflated. All I could say–numbly, dumbly–was “We’ll be back,” like some female version of the Terminator. My partner asked if the clerk could document our denial and we were denied that as well with a flat statement that it was “not policy,” although we later learned that other couples did get their requests documented with the date and “request denied.” The rest became more of a blur as we somehow found ourselves outside and I had become deaf and mute and put on a smiling face for the paparazzi and quelled the hurt and ache by mentally punching myself in the stomach.

When the last of the couples’ requests were denied, three remained to await arrest. For some reason they decided to extend office hours until 7 p.m. and so we made the trek back to the loft to gather in a huge circle and briefly process what had just occurred. I talked a bit about my feelings of surprise at not receiving a marriage license. I fought for this once already. I lived in a state where I took so many things for granted. I now live in a state where I am a second-class citizen. I am viewed as “less-than” and “other.” I am fighting for my rights all over again.

My Pollyanna viewpoint is definitely tarnished. I’m feeling a little worse-for-wear these days. But I am sure that, like every one of the other “Winston Salem Ten” as they are now referring to us in the media, I am down but not out. My partner and I believe very strongly in the work that the Campaign for Southern Equality is doing and in the WE DO campaign itself. We’ll just keep on going. My skin will toughen up and I’ll get used to denial.

Sooner or later, they’ll have to say yes.