October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s good timing, because I have boobs on the brain. Namely, my own boobs. (Although I’m sure yours are quite nice.) Considering their utility alone, my boobs have served me well over the years, and they’ve served my three daughters, who nursed for a combined total of sixty-five months, very well indeed. And now I’m asking them to continue to do me right.
It’s a big ask.
You see, breast cancer runs in my family. Like my mom. And her sister. And their mother. And her sister. (Thankfully, all survivors.) It doesn’t really seem to skip anyone. My sister and I are well aware of this. My three daughters will be, too, one day.
This familial proclivity was enough to earn me patient status in the high-risk department of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Yes, ma’am, my mammaries will be in the most capable hands.
When I first went to Dana Farber five years ago, I had a whole slew of genetic testing done and was negative for all if it, including BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations (the best-known gene mutations linked to breast cancer risk). I was breastfeeding my first daughter, though, so I couldn’t get a mammogram. And then immediately after weaning baby #1 (like the same day), I was pregnant again with baby #2, and so still couldn’t get that mammogram. Repeat for baby #3.
Turns out you can’t get a good clean mammogram until you’re no longer pregnant or breastfeeding, and you need to have weaned at least six months beforehand.
So fast forward to spring of this year. I was breastfeeding my last baby, and we were both enjoying our nursing bond. Quiet cuddles and “mama milk” in the privacy of her nursery, just the two of us. I didn’t really want it to end. But I also knew that it could go on for years, if I allowed it to. And that I needed to start prioritizing my own health.
I needed to get that six-month clock ticking.
So I did it. I hugged her, and told her “mama milk is all gone,” and we were both sad about it. Even now, months later, she still shakes her head in disbelief at times, and mutters “mama milk all gone” in a reverent tone.
But we carry on, together.
And now, finally, I’m just weeks away from my first mammogram, and whatever other screenings Dana Farber wants to run on me. I’m handing my boobs — and my trust — over to them.
It’s about time.