Monday, April 25, 2022

A Strange Stirring

Less than a week after a breast cancer specialist discovered a discolored lesion on my areola, I was back on the exam table. The specialist had conveniently gone on an extended vacation immediately after aforementioned discovery, so a different specialist stood by, ready to perform what’s called a “punch biopsy.”

As the new specialist explained it, she was going to inject my breast with lidocaine, then place a tube with a serrated edge over the lesion. A few twists and the lesion would be removed. Then, she would stitch me back up and send the lesion to the lab to test for cancer.

For once, a medical procedure actually was as simple as explained and, as promised, the worst part was the lidocaine injection. The whole thing only took about 20 minutes, after which, a nurse pressure-taped a bandage over my breast and sent me on my way.

Initially, the new specialist seemed skeptical that I wanted to remove the lesion. “That looks benign,” she told me at first glance. The reason why I opted to hack it off is because I am quickly approaching the age my mom was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a mastectomy, she made a full recovery. She is both a cautionary tale and a success story. Either way you spin it, though, denial is not an option for me when it comes to boob issues.

And yet, despite my scary family history, I was less worried about the results of my excised lesion than I thought I would be. I suspected it was nothing, but I also left a part of my brain open to it being something. And if it was something, well, I would deal with it. Because, really, what choice does one have? “At least we stayed in Minnesota and kept our good health insurance,” I thought.

I won’t leave you in suspense. A day and a half after the biopsy, my results came back: negative for malignancy. The specialist concluded it was a mole.

So. There’s that.

But everything else remains a struggle.

I keep waiting for things to get easier, to get better, but they stay hard, and disappointing. (There’s an inappropriate joke in there, but I’m not in the mood to make it.)

The now-dead dream of moving has left an unsettling emptiness in its wake. What will the new dream be? Why does there always need to be a new dream? Why isn’t anything enough? Why aren’t I enough? When will I be good enough to deserve something amazing?

I feel guilty even asking some of these questions, given that I am blessed with so many beautiful (if occasionally maddening) children, a devoted husband, a decent home, steady employment, good health, etc. But I can’t help wondering: what comes next?

These queries arrive as I am reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan for the first time. (I’m a little behind on my feminist manifestos. Sorry, not sorry.) But rather than enlightening, I find the text infuriating. Friedan bemoans the fact that college-aged women are "only" housewives and mothers, and often depressed ones at that. But let me ask you, Betty: are things any better now?

Modern-day moms not only take care of homes and children and husbands, they’re also expected to work full-time, look as impossibly beautiful and bootylicious as the Kardashians, and have porn-worthy sex lives! Oh, and they’re supposed to be humble-bragging about it all on social media while they’re doing it!

Sure, now women can allegedly have it all, but only if they do it all!

Some days, I fantasize about being teleported back to the ‘50s so my concerns can be limited to keeping house, shuttling kids to activities, and having a cocktail ready for my Don Draper of a husband when he walks through the door at the end of the day. (Hmm...Don Draper...)

Seriously, those housewives didn’t know how good they had it! You can take your strange stirring, Betty, and shove it up your, well, you know. Imagine not having the weight of financially supporting a family on your shoulders! Imagine not having childcare headaches! Imagine having a moment to breathe while the kids nap instead of hustling to make slightly less money than your male colleagues! Jesus Christ. Who cares about wasting a college education? I basically wasted mine by majoring in the wrong thing (psychology). All it’s done is saddle me with debt and allow me to think critically about unfair society is while being unable to change anything!

Thanks a lot, feminism, capitalism, and higher education.

Someday, I swear, I am going to do something other than bitch and moan on this blog. Someday, I hope to have something happy to write about again.

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