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Monday, October 7, 2013


I have been suffering from cystic breasts for over seven years now, a painful condition where ones breasts develop numerous  pockets of fluid, clear or not, throughout the breast tissue.  My breasts are a little fibrous (or so I've been told), which may be a catalyst in this condition, but other than this thumb-suck, neither I nor the numerous doctors and radiologists that I've seen over the years, can give a reason for these developing.

I'm sharing this rather personal blog as it may be of help to someone who has been similarly plagued by sore lumpy boobs as I have...where self examination is pretty pointless as one doesn't have a clue what it is that one is feeling...a lump is a lump is a lump!!!!

 The reasons why I "shouldn't" have developed cystic breasts:
My bra size is a shy 32/34 b/c cup, depending on my weight, (fairly constant) but  I successfully breast-fed all my children, my son till 18 months old (I only stopped lactating when he was five....not cool!!). I was on a low dose contraceptive for around 4 years between my daughter and son...and not since. I have always been health conscious,  not drinking much except for the odd glass of wine, not smoking,  not having a sweet tooth at all (chocolate is apparently a no-no) , am paranoid about eating fresh fruit and veggies (grow my own), never cook with oil (except for olive oil when the recipe calls for it), and have always done some sport or other.   I drink one or two cups of coffee per day (coffee also a no-no), and hate fizzy drinks.  I don't have a family history of breast cancer.....except for my dad's sister who was taking HRT's for over 20 years.  

So there you have it...doing everything right......right????.....or am I?

Women are encouraged to go for a mammogram once a year after the age of 40, but for me this has meant fear and pain and every ounce of motivation within me to go.  I have always gone on my own, believing that it is a negative, nerve-wracking procedure and it's not fair to drag someone else into that space....although, there have been times when I wish that I was holding the hand of someone who cared. 

Having small boobs, mammograms are a tug of war between human flesh and technology.....literally!!  You have to strip down to your waist and stand in front of a complete stranger who yawns as she tells you to shove your already tender, cyst-filled boob onto a cold plastic table.  Whatever you can't manage to put on properly, she obligingly does for you, with some dexterous tugging and equally cold hands.  You know she's lying when she says: "this will be quick" and "its not going to be sore" as you watch  the top, descending plate slowly gobble up your boob and squash it to the size of a flap-jack. (Is it really important to take half the skin from your neck and torso too!!??) What I have learned is, that when she tells me not to breath...I DON'T!!! she'll have to do it again!  When the plates are released, and while your breast takes a few minutes to resume its shape, one almost expects to see some blood oozing from your nipple!!!!  Surely, at least one of the cysts have burst?!

Mammogram over, you wait for the results with sore throbbing boobs, in a waiting room full of other half dressed women, thinking to yourself:  "should I warn them?"

Then the dreaded: "Mrs Vallance, we've found something, and we need to do a biopsy".  At this point, you are barely able to suppress your inner hysteria.  Your mind races at 1000km per hour, you start writing your will, saying goodbye to family and friends in your head, planning a masterpiece that will last for all eternity, and plan some weird, over-the-top adventure that will ensure your detachment from the inevitable.  

 Its all a crazy, hazy space to be in...a mixture of calm, panic, fear and faith. 
HOWEVER....the procedure...the biopsy, quickly brings you back into the 'now'.  It's everything as above...only the 'flap-jack' stage lasts for a good 20 minutes.   She shoots a long, thick needle into the dodgy site again and again, removing as much of the 'spot' as she can, finally replacing it with a little metal 'ribbon' which will identify the site forever. (not big enough to set off a metal detector fortunately...imagine explaining that away in Dubai's notorious airport!!!)  You wonder if your torturer has the slightest bit of job satisfaction, and what it could possibly be. You concentrate hard on not hating her, by focusing on her poppie shoes and unshaven legs through one of the two holes in the suspended table.

When you get home, you feel as if your breasts have grown by two sizes but your husbands t-shirt is just far too tight.    Your nerves are all jangled and you have now become a combination of Za-Za Gabor and Joan of Arc.....and thus your split personality remains for the 7 days till you get the results.  Benign!!! Haleluja, thank you Lord. 

 You are jubilant..........till it all happens again, a few months later!

Around nine months ago, I was referred to Dr Carol-Anne Benn at the Milpark hospital, by my female GP. What an astounding relief to FINALLY have someone LISTEN and understand what having breast cysts was like!!!  After all, she HAS breasts, so why shouldn't she.  She took down a detailed history, and actually listened to what I had to say...a first.  I wasn't just a purse-filler, but a real woman, with a real problem.  At that stage, I had been seriously contemplating having a radical mastectomy. I'd had enough!!! I'd even discussed it with my husband and one or two friends.  I felt desperate.

She started me on palliative treatment : a Solal detox drink that eventually made me gag just by thinking about it (that was stopped), gave me reams of information on the condition, and put me on another Solal product called 13 Complex.  This is an extract of broccoli (and certainly smells like it when you take the lid off) who's function is to halt or at least slow down cell mutation.  I have researched Rooibos tea enough to feel that it is key to healing almost anything, so am drinking copious amounts with honey and occasionally with cinnamon.  I drink between 2 and 3 litres of water a day too.  (Anybody who knows me well, will know that that its no small fete for me.  I'm not a water-drinker.) 

Well, I'm now happy to report, that my sonar today showed that all my cysts have shrunk!!!!  Something is working and I'm delighted.  My mom is a great prayer.  When she says that she's praying for you, you can be sure that she this is one thing that I do not discount in my improvement.  

I know that I will always have cystic breasts, but I have never been one to simply accept things.  I question, I explore, I fight the demon and even if I get nowhere,  at least i'll have the peace knowing that I didn't simply walk away, but tried to make a positive change.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This thing called guilt

I haven't blogged in ages, for many, many reasons....... mostly personal, and this sudden, out of the blue, splurge, does not mean that I have found my literary mojo.....not yet at any rate.  I just have a bit of time....well no, actually, I dont really, its just that I'm too darn exhausted  to start running around again today.  I have even managed to put my well developed 'guilt' to bed for a while, least for long enough to get a few lines down.  I have always journaled, and  other than scribbling down the odd thought/vent/idea/poem, that too, has all but stopped. 

Soooo much has happened since my last blog; the awesome, emotive wedding of our eldest daughter, the theft of around R100 000 worth of my jewelry by a domestic helper (who, it would seem, that the entire world warned me about.......(I do that quite often it seems....ignore people's warnings)), my middle daughter is happily in another job and is studying again, and my son is navigating his way through matric and  these hair-raising South African roads with his new drivers license.

My art has taken a back seat to brooms, mops and dusters, and now, more recently, to rakes, spades and pool equipment.  Not meaning to moan here, but my hands now look worse than my 76 year old mums', with all the toxic, skin-dehydrating elements and chemicals that they're exposed to daily. Life by no means 'sucks'.  In fact it's pretty darn wonderful...lots of sugar with just a pinch of salt....

The salt, I guess, is the balance that life itself  has a hand in, just to remind us of our vulnerabilities and limitations.  Yes, this 'guilt' thing.....

When you are sooooo used to doing good that it becomes bad for you, when it becomes second nature and is an extension of who you are (or how you see yourself ) that you eventually loose site of the real self... and possibly, all because of a little programmed seed that was planted by people and circumstances through a lifetime, where 'good enough' never was. So, we roboticaly chuff our way through life, trying to be perfect...the perfect child, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect wife....and all the while we are lost to being perfectly human with perfect imperfections and perfect limitations. There is no such thing as super-hero's , no matter what the world wants us to believe..deep down, everybody knows that....don't they???  

 Being made to feel guilty as we get older....warranted or not..... can trigger reactions  in that that our 'abused' and belittled subconscious lashes out in the conscious, because all our lives we have lived with and attempted to subconsciously rectify the accusation of 'not enough', 'you're bad', 'you're lazy', 'you're ugly' etc, etc.

Examining the motive and motivation for doing anything is a good start.  If its driven by guilt....simply.....its NOT good and will not ultimately be good for you or the person/people for who its intended....except of course, when its for yourself.

It all really boils down to loving ones self enough to know when you aren't.