Making Friends: Breast Health Awareness

Last year I blogged about my feelings that we should have Breast Health Awareness Month rather than Breast Cancer Awareness month in the post, Friends, Enemies, Breasts. This year, I'm going simpler. I've decided to share a poem, Friends, Enemies, Breasts, I wrote in December 2010. The poem is included in my book of poetry, Reflections in Silhouette: Poems.

Friends, Enemies, Breasts

As a young girl
I eagerly anticipated your arrival
I watched for you daily
You would show the world my maturity
You took your time arriving
I exercised to encourage you
I flexed to make you noticeable
I wore a training bra on my flat chest to coach your growth
I imagined how you’d look

As a teenager
You embarrassed me
You just wouldn’t stick out enough
You refused to enlarge
You brought on teasing nicknames
Baby Boobs
And I hated you for it
I willed you to grow
I begged you to grow
You stubbornly refused
I found ways to disguise you
I wore shirts and sweaters a size too large
I wore short skirts to draw attention away from you
I wore my coat all day
Other days
I pretended you were just want I wanted
I rebelled outwardly against my feelings about you
I disguised my disappointment in you
Deep inside though I knew my bravado was a lie
I imagined you how I wanted you to be
Just like…
Well, hers and hers and hers and…
But you were mine
And you had a mind of your own

As a young woman
I looked at you in the mirror
Resigned myself to your smallness
I hated you for not looking like I’d envisioned – dreamed
I drew attention away from you
To my legs
Always got them looking at my legs
And maybe they wouldn’t notice your lack of size
I cursed your smallness
I failed to appreciate your symmetry
I failed to celebrate your firmness
I failed to recognize your perkiness
I made fun of you before others could
Then one day
Someone special uncovered you
Shushed my jeers at you with a kiss
Embraced you
Gave you a new nickname which also made me cringe
Ozzie and Harriett
-          For reasons known only to him
He caressed you
He appreciated you
He showed me your good qualities
He slipped a piece of ice into his mouth
And kissed you
You responded with a thrill and exaggerated perkiness
That spread through my body
And suddenly your size didn’t seem so important
I stood straighter
I let you be who you were
But, alas, the moment ended

Time passed
Every time I cursed you
I remembered that not everyone found your size lacking
I embraced you
Showed you more proudly
A new man appreciated you
In his own way – different but just as loving
He caressed you
He held you
He declared you perfect
He captured you in his mouth with joy
You responded with glee
I didn’t question his desire for you
I reveled in the pleasure you brought him
I welcomed his approval
I grew to love you
I accepted your special attributes
I felt the pleasure of you

Without warning
You grew
You became womanly
At first I didn’t believe
I waited for you to shrink
You created the curves
I always imagined
You stayed
Along with the size increase
Came days of soreness, of tenderness
Those days I cursed you again
The slightest touch felt like torture
Even clothing irritated you
But when I looked in the mirror
The new curves made me smile
And the pleasure you brought outweighed the pain

The doctor examined you
I’d yet to do so
Hadn’t bothered to learn how
I was young
My only worries about you
Were your size and your potential for pleasure
The doctor declared you “perfect”
I liked the description
Even though it referred to you medically not aesthetically

Then one day
A hard spot appeared
It felt odd
It grew a bit uncomfortable
It didn’t go away
The doctor grew concerned
I was only thirty-one
Too young for you to be sick
They placed you in a vise
Squeezed you
Told me to hold my breath
I couldn’t breathe anyway
What if…
I couldn’t finish the thought
They took pictures of your tissue
Your density required a different type of picture
They declared you healthy
I finally let out my breath

I appreciated you
I loved you
I read how to take care of you
I changed my diet to keep you healthy
I examined you on a regular basis
Looked for changes
I grew to know you intimately
I looked at you in the mirror
But this time I didn’t wish you larger
I only wished you healthy
I only wished you to remain “perfect”
I finally appreciated the beauty you possessed
I finally reveled in your firmness
I finally celebrated your perkiness
I finally realized you were never the problem
I enjoyed how you filled out my clothes
Was surprised when your size increased again
I took pleasure when you were
Caressed, touched, kissed, loved

You turned forty
Along with me
Time to get your picture taken again
Routine this time
No big deal
Joked with the technician
About the vise, the squeezing, the process
Laughed about the numbers on the machine’s plate
Learned more about the process and the reading technique
Laughed about how each woman’s experience is so different
Even joked about the fear a callback for a repeat test causes
Left in high spirits sure my breasts were “perfect”
Two weeks later the phone rang
The words I remember
Density, left breast, changed, diagnostic
I know they were in a sentence, possibly two
Instinctively I touched you, searching
Instinctively I touch you now, searching
For a change I know I won’t - can’t - feel
It wasn’t detectable in my last professional exam
It wasn’t detectable in my last personal exam
I stand in front of the mirror
Staring at you
Willing you to be healthy
Loving you for all you bring me
Scared you’ll betray me
Terrified you’ll seek vengeance
For all those times I didn’t appreciate you
For all those times I actually hated you
For all those times I willed you to be something you weren’t
I cup my hand under you
I lift you to your former perky position
I don’t mind that you’re less perky
I love your size
I even that slight sag you’ve developed
I love that you’re real
I love that I’ve never falsified you
I love that you’re unique
I love that you’re all me
I love that you’ve been there without fail
No matter how I’ve treated you
I want you stay
I will protect you
I will love you
I will cherish you
I will appreciate you
Today, tomorrow, always
Please just don’t betray me
Please just don’t abandon me
Please just be healthy
Please just remain “perfect” in your imperfection


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