I feel like I live in a very masculine world. I know this is a stupidly obvious observation to anyone who, you know, can see, but I also feel very often as though I buy into it. I’m not a woman who likes skirts and children, which means it’s hard for me to find a non-masculine way of being. Currently, I’m training to be in one of the most male-dominated industries (law) and consciously making an effort to seem like “one of the boys”: I’m learning to appreciate whiskey, play golf, and smoke cigars. I don’t feel that these are necessarily masculine activities, but they are definitely activities that men in power like to think of as “theirs”.
Sometime between the start of the most recent semester and finals week, a lump that has been in my breast for as long as I’ve had a breast started getting bigger. I noticed it, but I didn’t really notice it. It took my husband saying something (“Is your boob…bigger?”) to shock me into acknowledging it. As I said, I’ve had that lump for as long as I’ve had boobs, but during my first gynecological exam, the doctor mentioned it and I fa-reaked out. I started having nightmares that it was a mouth, eating its way through my skin and then proceeding to devour me. So I went to a surgeon who removed it. And it grew right back. Years later, I started doing research about the kind of lump it was and realized that I really didn’t want surgery, I wanted someone to hold me, let me cry, and tell me what I could do about it. Which, as it turns out, is a lot.
So this summer has been about me and my breast. Specifically the breast with the lump. It’s always been a kind of bellwether for me, giving me sharp reminders not to do stupid things (like eat things that are bad for me, mostly), but now I’m trying to listen to it better. I went to some western doctors and they said what I expected: the radiologist wanted more radiological tests; the surgeon wanted surgery; the internist wanted more opinions and wanted me to not look things up online. That’s the one that really annoyed me—he actually wanted me less informed about my own health. So…I’m going the non-western route. As my husband (whose step-mother is an acupuncturist and Chinese doctor) says, “Three thousand years of Chinese medicine can’t be wrong!”
My sister goes to a non-western doctor who I affectionately call the Witch Doctor. So I asked for a referral and have started going to her. Just like the other hammer-nail doctors, she prescribed what I expected: some witch doctry. Since none of the western doctors thought that the lump was (a) cancer or (b) urgent, I figure I have some time to do crazy stuff before I have to submit to the knife.
So I’m on a strange diet (no wheat, corn, dairy, nuts, or sesame seeds) and I’m taking strange supplements (phosphatidic acid & freeze-dried chamomile). And I’m feeling listened to by a doctor and that I’m participating in my own health.
I also find that I’m seeking out more female energy. I’m spending more time with my sisters, my mother, and female friends of mine (of which I have few—most of my good friends are men). This was the year I got off my ass and put together a little altar that’s been in my mind for a long while. I’m watching Buffy: the Vampire Slayer (which doesn’t sound all that spiritual until I remember that, when I was a badass, athletic, hot teen, I was filled with nothing but disdain for Buffy but now I can’t seem to get enough of it). I picked up from my mother’s house a nude that one of my sisters did when she was younger. I picked up creepy candles and have started displaying images of Mary, my mother’s goddess.
And my breast seems to be approving. One of the major things that annoyed me about the western doctors was that they treated me like an Apple Genius might: There is a problem with your breast; if you just leave it with us for a few days, we’ll fix it; maybe even replace it; just leave it in the hands of the professionals and we’ll call you when it’s ready. But since it’s been with me for so long, I don’t feel that this lump in my breast is apart from me but that it is a part of me. And maybe I will need to get rid of it eventually, but right now, I think it’s just what I need: I need to step back from the masculine world I’m a happy part of and start reconnecting with reality in a different way. I’m eating more intentionally, drinking less, doing more judo, meditating more, and working on accepting myself the way I am.
I’m feeling healthier and, although I’m only a few weeks into this regimen, haven’t discerned any change in the size of my breast lump. So we’ll see. I may need to call in the surgeons and, at that point, I’m sure they’ll be only too happy to chop me into tiny bits and put those bits under microscopes. But until then, I’m going to do this my way and pay attention to the female energy around me.