Mini Memoir Monday: The breast day

Lactiferous duct

Lactiferous duct (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ms. P dropped a heavy cardboard box on her desk, stared at us over her Penny Marshall-glasses, and in her dry voice, announced that in honor of breast cancer awareness month, we would all be examining breasts. The boys in the back of the room stood up and cheered.

She opened the box and started pulling out fake breasts. She then threw them around the room like a bizarre version of dodge ball. I caught one and studied it my hand. It was a darker color to represent the Latina community. The erect nipple looked right at me. I pinched one end of the breast, and the fluid inside drooped to the bottom. When I squished it in my hand I felt something firm inside. Something meant to mimic the network of milk ducts

“One out of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer once in their life. There are twenty four breasts in this box. Three of them have a tumor. Your job is to examine each of them, and find the ones with the tumor. Boys,” she paused and glared across the room with her accusatory finger pointed at them. “It’s important that you know how to find a tumor as well, because believe it or not, one of these days you pimple-faced brats are actually going to have wives, and you can learn a thing or two about taking care of ’em.” She put her hands on her hips and growled.

The class then broke out into a cacophony of giggles, and jeers. One kid hoarded the breasts and made a saline fortress on his desk. Another kid held a breast on either side of his head. “Help my, obi wan kenobi,” he joked. Then he wrinkled his brow, and looked at the breast in his right hand. It was pale, and had a much larger nipple. “I think this one has a tumor.”

“Let me see!” another kid called out, grabbing for it.

For the rest of class I felt up all 24 breasts. I squeezed each one, poked at them, sandwiched them between my hands, but I still could not tell which ones had healthy tissue, and which had tumors. When class was over I handed my teacher the blank assignment. She looked at it and shook her head. “I hope you don’t give up on yourself so easily,” she said.

Last week my doctor found a lump. A sonogram confirmed that is was normal tissue, but I couldn’t help remembering that day in health class. How funny it all seemed. How we all thought the assignment was some stupid joke that had nothing to do with our immortal, teenage bodies. There were at least sixteen girls in that class, so chances are two of them will be diagnosed with breast cancer once in their lives. Let’s all take a cue from Ms. P, and make sure we take this stuff seriously.

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6 comments

    1. Thanks! It was nerve-wrecking, but fortunately I was able to get the sonogram quickly. I would have been a mess if I had to wait any longer.

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  1. Humorous high school story juxtaposed with harsh adult reality. Really drives home the point.
    Sorry you had to go through that. It can be so very difficult having to wait to find out if something is wrong. Thankfully you found out quickly that everything was all right. I’m glad you’re ok, Tracy.

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  2. Wow, what high school did you go to? Oh, how times have changed! Seriously though, I’m so sorry about the real scare you had but so happy it turned out to be a false alarm.

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  3. Cancer scares the hell out of everyone. Something growing in our bodies and eating away at us. I do not think there is one family that does not have a brush with the various forms of cancer. I believe you read about my grandson Michael who survived brain cancer at the age of two. If not I suggest you read that blog. Out of twenty three who entered the program with Doctor Finley only three made it. Michael is one of the three. Today he plays baseball on a team for twelve year old’s and learns Chinese at the Berkley Prep School. Every time I feel depressed I think of him and suck it up.

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