Monday, December 11, 2006

Laughing and crying

A couple of weeks ago, one of my students, we'll call her Jill, had to leave class early for a doctor's appointment.

"It's nothing serious I hope," I asked.

"Oh no, it's a regular check up for my chest," she answered (while indicating to her breasts)

"You mean your annual breast exam?"

"Well, my mother died of breast cancer as did my aunt, so I go more often. I have a kind of cyst that they are monitoring. It's just a cyst though," she happily announced.

"How old was your mother when she died?"

"40"

"Wow, that's terrible, I'm so sorry. Have you ever thought about getting a breast reduction?"

Gasps and bewilderment all around the class. Okay, maybe it's not the most tenderly put question, but in my defense, this girl has veritable melons.

"Well, I mean you could get rid of the cyst, and you know, women of your size often get back problems."

Sometimes I don't know how to talk to women. One time I told my friend I thought her thighs had gotten bigger. Big mistake. Anyway. I was just thinking "clinically" as it were about a 30 year old required to get breast exams every three months. Why not just nip it in the bud?

"My breasts are not that big! You're the third person who has suggested that to me." I had obviously touched on a sensitive spot.

"Okay, they're not freakishly big, but you've got to admit they're not small!" and we all laughed to diffuse the tension.

Last week, Jill was not in class. Turns out the cyst was not benign at all, it was a very rare form of cancer. So rare that she will have 9 doctors following her case to learn about it. She starts chemo today. And that's where my heart will be.

26 comments:

Spider said...

Oh wow... cancer is such a nasty disease... especially the way it runs in families... my thoughts are with Jill...

Anonymous said...

I was afraid that your ending was where this post was headed. I kept telling myself, no, he's leading up to a punchline about how a guy often says inappropriate things to women. These are things like our answers to the question "do I look fat in this dress?" But, no, you did not go there. You went where I feared.

My heart also goes out to Jill. I will be hoping the best for her.

Timmy said...

yikes! I hope she beats it!

CoffeeDog said...

I have to laugh at your candor....

I hope she's ok, but it doesn't sound too good.

Anonymous said...

She's young and sounds like she is getting pretty exceptional care....what a medical team. If you do hear from her, I think we can both thin of a particular book that might help her through the tough road ahead :)

Ed said...

Sounds like they caught it early. Chances are she will join the thousands of long term surviviors. My prayers will be with Jill, today.

St. Dickeybird said...

I knew a woman who had 40lbs (!!!) removed from her chest, because of the incredible back problems.
She got horribly scarred, and when she became pregnant, they grew back anyway!

Long live big boobies!!!!!

dirk.mancuso said...

I also do not know how to talk to women sometimes -- sometimes I say something in jest that results in tears instead of a chuckle.

I'll be thinking of Jill and sending her some good vibes today.

St. Dickeybird said...

Oh, i finally read the last paragraph (i got distracted by boobies).
I really hope she gets better!

Anonymous said...

Poor Jill!! I will keep her in my thoughts. I would love to kick cancer right in the nuts this month...

Oh and your way with women? It's probably a good thing you don't have to live with one! heehee!

Rebekah said...

"'Okay, they're not freakishly big, but you've got to admit they're not small!' and we all laughed to diffuse the tension."

This is so classically you. I can hear you saying it.

I'm with Chunks... Cancer can go to hell this month. I hate it I hate it I hate it.

Hope Jill gets good news soon.

Patricia said...

the awful thing is that melons or tiny bumps, the effing cancer doesn't discriminate. jill's boobies go on my prayer list.

life is strange.

GayProf said...

In your defense, she did open the door to the conversation by talking candidly about her breasts' status.

I am really sorry, though, about the last bit in this story. I hope that Jill comes through and is not in much pain.

Anonymous said...

Your heart is in the right place. I don't think it's a case of you not knowing how to talk to women. Perhaps, as a gay man, you felt you cuold talk candidly about her breats, because you knew you were not coming from a place of objectifying them (as hetero males are wont to do).

Will send "Jill" some positive energy and hope you'll report back at some point that she was well enough to join your class again.

And you, you take care -- I'm starting to feel sympathetic stress over the nude dancer saga. Hope he'll be history in the new year!

Anonymous said...

Egads! God your feminine intuition must have seen that coming. But she has an awful family history of that type of cancer. I will think of her too today.
Hugs,
kb

Jason said...

Yikes, hope she is ok.

Anonymous said...

Prayers to Jill...

anabel said...

Yea Torn, "smooth" would not be the word I'd use to describe your conversation with Jill.

I'm going out to pray with tobacco for Jill and all the bloggers, their friends & family who are dealing with this right now.

dawn said...

That sucks. HOpefully her regular exams mean that she caught it early. If they catch it early she should be okay.

That still sucks. She is in the thoughts of all of your blog friends.

And no, you do not know how to talk to women...

Em said...

Awww.

farmboyz said...

There really is no polite and succesful way to talk with a woman about her breasts unless you're a straight man and you are stuffing them into your mouth.

kev said...

My thoughts and prayers are also with her. My bf lost his grandad a couple months ago from lung cancer.
I hate that disease..so insidiuos and indiscriminate. Health is such a fragile thing sometimes...

Freak Magnet said...

Wow. That's such a horrible thing for any human being to go through. My thoughts are with her, as well.

The Wisdom of Wislon said...

Positive thoughts for the poor lassy and slap your wrist for the chest suggestions :>)

David said...

I don't like sucker-punch posts. That was harsh.

I hope her treatment goes well.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! How terrible for this girl! First to lose her mother so young and now she has cancer. My heart goes out to her. I hope she will be ok.