My unpostable, unspeakable, unthinkable thought for the week: going bra free.
Tell me: has anyone ever dared to whisper to you in a dark closet, that bra wearers have an increased incidence of breast cancer? That in cultures where bras are not worn, women have the same rates of breast cancer as men?
I did not know this.
In fact, I discovered it just the other day, when I came home miserable from a demeaning encounter with a doctor, and decided to find out some facts for myself.
Tell me something more, ladies: when you think about keeping your breasts healthy, what comes to mind? BSE? (No, I'm not talking about mad cows - say, have you heard the one about why they called it PMS? Never mind...) No, really, what comes to mind? Do you even think about breast health, or do you frame it more like "avoiding breast cancer" and "avoiding sagging"? Do you shy away from even thinking about your breasts? Do you dutifully do your round of BSE when you think of it, anxiously searching those scary chest appendages for the dreaded lurking lumps, hoping to achieve the ultimate in breast care: "early detection"?
This week I noticed that one of my breasts had sprouted a double chin. My native intelligence said, "I've gained some weight, and the extra tissue was looking for a place to go, found a gap under the bra band, and made a break for it." My learned fear said, "Go to the doctor. If you see any changes in your breasts, go to the doctor. Oh no, oh no, oh no..."
That day I made an appointment - for the cat to get his annual vaccinations.
The next day, after asking spouse and mother for opinions, and for news of what sort of doctor might be waiting behind the office door in Arcola these days, and after much imagined dialogue and much foot dragging, I made an appointment for myself.
The imagined dialogue continued off and on through the next few days. There were dreams of the cat looking like he had been through chemo, and of myself being pinned against a wall by some sort of farm equipment, right at chest level.
On a good day, the waiting room has only two or three people in it, but there were already a few more than that when I arrived. By the time I was called in, the place was full, and the working men who had come in after me for end-of-the-day appointments were saying they should have brought lunches.
I sat for a while in the narrow examining room, looking around at posters of inner workings. Earlier in the week, I had imagined a flippant little speech about the double chin, but today I felt like just saying it as plain as I could.
The door behind me opened. "How are you, Laura?" said the stranger.
"Fine, how are you?" said I.
"If you're fine, why are you here?" If there was a smile or a twinkling eye with that, I missed it.
So I told him, and he frowned and questioned my terminology and asked, "Do you want to show me what you're describing?"
If I'd answered that one literally, I'd have walked out.
He did the examination, told me it was nothing to worry about, and gave me a little lecture about how a tight-fitting piece of clothing can leave a line in the flesh under it. (No, really? Okay, Doc, I get it. Sorry I didn't use just the right words when I told you I suspected exactly that.) Not a typical breast mass, he said, but for my peace of mind, he would request an ultrasound.
And off he went, leaving me sitting there with my bra unhooked and crumpled under my sweater, and the examining room door open.
If you're thinking that all of this is shockingly personal revelation, perhaps this will put it in perspective. On my way out of the office, I checked with the receptionist about the ultrasound appointment - she's also the church secretary, and we often chat on the phone about details for the church bulletin. When I phoned back to the office later, the other receptionist gave me the appointment details - the one who sometimes gives James a ride to Scout meetings.
Don't get me wrong - I trust that these women keep confidences appropriately. In a small town, most people are really quite careful about privacy. But there are definite limits to the privacy here, and you get used to it. It won't bother me if I get some intense looks when people ask, "How are you, Laura?"
My breast seems to be recovering nicely on its own.
But for your peace of mind, I will go to Regina for the ultrasound - and to shop for some camisoles and sturdy sweaters and shirts with big patch pockets on the front. I may be bra free, but I'm not culture free. "Nobody wants to know that you're cold, dear" rings in my ears.
And if I get some intense chest-level looks from folks on the street, I'll just smile.
- History of the Research on Bras and Breast Disease
- The Self Study Center (from Singer and Grismaijer, who did the major study reported in their book, Dressed to Kill) - lots of links
- Bras and Breast Cancer (a quick overview of Singer and Grismaijer's findings)
- Aren't bras GOOD for my breasts?
- Self Care for Your Breasts (massage: instead of searching for illness, how about nurturing health?)