Palmes-Dennis: My conversations with my breasts

I HAVE this on again, off again conversation with my breast since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 14 last year. I do not talk to my breast before, as there was nothing to talk. All of a sudden right after the diagnosis I would ask my left breast now why or why it allowed a cancer cell to develop without warning me.

If only the breast would reply, it would be an easy conversation. If a woman's breast can talk, what do you think it would say? Maybe it would say “Do not forget the mammogram, you are overdue for the next mammo” or maybe take good care of your breast.” Alternatively, some mundane topic like changing the bra, the bra size or the bra color.

I am reminded of these breast talks since it is Women’s Month this March. Instead of writing about the global “Me Too” movement for women’s rights, I am thinking about talking that other important reproductive female organ called the breast. Breasts are seldom given importance except when a woman gets sick with breast cancer and it is not even on Women’s Month. Breast, like vaginas, are two of the most popular reproductive organs but there is little discussion when it is supposed to be Women's Month.

Breast Cancer is set aside for October or Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I will be different this time and I'll talk about my breast; my little stories start when I was young until the present when I experience discomfort and pain caused by breast cancer.

My breast or “totoy” story starts when I was 10 or 11 years old. I haven't heard about the bra and if there were any during my time, my mother couldn't afford to buy me one yet. However, I am quite sure there was no bra yet at that time unlike these days when there are baby bras already sold in stores since the girls mature fast and develop breasts at eight years old.

We see many girls with erect nipples even without the mothers doing anything about it. I can only remember wearing “sandos” or undershirts made of “sacks of floor” that were sewn by dressmakers. The cloth gets thin through constant washing and soaking and the material was later used for camesa.

Later there were undershirts made of cotton that were sold in department stores. Mine was bought at a store owned by the late Iya Paring Amparo Lee or at the city. When I began to have breasts, they were sore and when they finally developed, I was so conscious about having protruded nipples that no amount of covering can hide.

It may be the reason why my posture is stooped since I have to hide my breasts frequently especially when I'm not wearing any undershirt. I did not like my breast then but when bras were being sold in the market I bought my own and now I don't have to be so conscious since it can hide my breasts from those men with X-ray eyes.

As every female may have experienced during puberty, the nipples get itchy prior to menstruation resulting to some discomfort. There are times when I feel my breasts getting heavy or I experience a sensation I couldn't understand.

Sometimes when I scratch it, the nipples become sore. Indeed the nipples and the breasts become a discomfort to me. Maybe other women had no problem like mine.

As time went by, I felt an uneasiness during mammograms since they were using the old mammogram machines back home in the Philippines. When the breasts are pinned down to, the plate of the machine there is soreness especially if the technician's hands are heavy.

While there is little discomfort in the 3D mammogram still there is some discomfort especially on the neck as you turn your face as the technician tells you to in order to hold the breast in place. Maybe to others it is not painful or the pain is just fleeting but to me it hurts.

When I breastfed my first child, the fluid that came out made my nipples sore. When the mother's breast is filled with milk and the baby is not ready to be fed, the feeling of fullness in the breast can be painful to me. Thus, I don't share the ecstasy that is associated with it. Now I contracted breast cancer, one could imagine the tests that I underwent. Whether touched by human hands or examined under a machine, for me the embarrassment is gone.

For me, it is more about that feeling of “damn you breast. What have you done to me?” I do not know about the others but for me, it is normal to have these conversations with my breasts because of what I am experiencing right now.

Maybe organizers of Women’s Month activities should include women’s health in issues tackled during the month long observance in March so it would be a holistic and better discussion on women's well-being.
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