“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

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The Post In Which They Found A Lump In My Breast

It’s the moment every woman dreads. You’re lying flat on your back, your feet in stirrups and a doctor lady with cold fingers kneads your boobs like they’re dough for Challah bread.

She pretends she hasn’t just looked at your cervix and isn’t man-handling your mammaries by asking you awkward questions she doesn’t really want the answer to.

“So did you enjoy your holiday break? Where did you go? How’s your dog, Petula? Oh, you have cats. Sorry. Oh. Shannon. I feel something here…”

She starts to pull my boobs like taffy.

“You have a lump.”

The next hour, while waiting for an ultra-sound to determine if I have cancer or not, my mind does this:

“Lump in breast, lump in breast. It’s probably not cancer, because there’s no history of cancer in my family, but I do live close to a freeway and I did use tanning beds twice in college and I stood in front of the microwave when I was pregnant. I definitely have cancer.

“Look, Lainy and Shelley both had mastectomies and had their breasts reconstructed. Maybe they’ll let me look at their nipples? If they have nipples. I don’t really need my nipples. I just have to live long enough to get my kids out of school. And to find a good wife for Henry, he’ll need one because who will yell at him when he eats bread so he won’t die of diabetes?”

Long story short the lump was a rogue, non-cancerous entity which I won’t name here as it’s kind of blech. I was relieved and, better yet, so grateful to this body that’s carrying me through life.

There was a maxim I heard several times when I went to church as a young child, “Your body is your temple.” Coming up on the half century mark I truly get it. I’m going to make hay while the sun shines. (I actually have no f-ing clue what that means, but it seems appropriate)

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Shannon Bradley Colleary, lump in breast

Note to the self-critical 26-year old me: Enjoy your beauty, run around naked, then get on with living. And no, I don’t have a flower tattoo on my breast.


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27 comments

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  1. Kathy Radigan
    Kathy Radigan 24 January, 2014, 10:52

    How scary! I have had so many friends go through this, thankfully most ending the way yours did, but sadly a few ending with a scary diagnosis and all that that entails.

    Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for what I have! So glad you got a happy ending to your story!!

    Reply this comment
  2. Rosie Carrillo
    Rosie Carrillo 24 January, 2014, 11:16

    Beautiful photo. None of us want to face that word in relation to ourselves, family or friends! Stay/BE well! XO

    Reply this comment
  3. Carol Cassara
    Carol Cassara 24 January, 2014, 12:52

    I had this same scary experience more than 20 yrs ago, had a lumpectomy to be sure and it was benign. It’s funny that at the time, I had no fear at all, as if I knew it was nothing. But if it had happened to me at this stage in life when I know so much more and know people who have succumbed to breast cancer, well, I’d have been a wreck. So happy it turned out well for you.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 24 January, 2014, 17:48

      Hi Carol — I wasn’t in full-blown panic because my mother aslo tended toward lumpy breasts that were benign, so I hoped that was going to be my road and it appears to be. But we all know that life can turn on a dime. And on that reassuring thought …

      Reply this comment
  4. Lisa
    Lisa 24 January, 2014, 13:09

    That is absolutely terrifying! Glad you’re ok, and you get to keep your ta-tas! I always tell my husband that I’d chop mine off the INSTANT they started misbehaving and get new ones. It’s like boobs think they got us through life (out of tickets) and can just go rogue whenever they want because we have sentimental and vascular attachment to them. Nope, I’ll cut you right off boobs! Ya jerks!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 24 January, 2014, 17:46

      But Lisa — is your site called perkytits?? I’m heading over for a look-see.

      Reply this comment
      • Lisa
        Lisa 27 January, 2014, 06:43

        It definitely is! My husband’s nickname while skydiving was “Perky” so when we signed up for a breast cancer walk, we named our Team Perky and the Tits, thus the blog was born.

        Reply this comment
  5. Michele
    Michele 24 January, 2014, 13:24

    My name tag says Hello I’m Lumpy. Have had those scary exams too let’s just say Lumps Suck. But am glad you get checked out! Now have something gooey and chocolate a glass of wine and enjoy.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 24 January, 2014, 17:46

      Hi Michele — The word “lump” when referring to breasts always meant cancer to me. I didn’t realize there were other options. I am having my two glasses of red wine constitutional as I type.

      Reply this comment
  6. DeanaCal
    DeanaCal 24 January, 2014, 17:00

    Oh Shannon, I’m so sorry you had to go through that! I had the same thing happen to me a couple of years ago, and although happily it also turned out to be a non-cancerous blech rogue entity, I had to go a week between mammogram and ultrasound, so lots and lots of scary thoughts during that week. Similar to yours – gotta get the kids through school and the right wife for Mr Cal.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 24 January, 2014, 17:45

      Hi Miss Deana — I made them take me the same day. Blogger that I am, fortunately they had WiFi in the hospital so when I was stuck waiting for two hours I had something to do. This mortal coil needs to last another 40 years. xo S

      Reply this comment
  7. AlexandraFunFit
    AlexandraFunFit 24 January, 2014, 18:01

    Whew.

    Reply this comment
  8. Sharon Greenthal
    Sharon Greenthal 24 January, 2014, 18:02

    There’s nothing worse than a health scare. I had one last November and it nearly paralyzed me.

    Reply this comment
  9. Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered)
    Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered) 25 January, 2014, 07:02

    Scary. I just had a mammogram a few weeks ago, nothing wrong, just regularly scheduled and it is scary. Especially when friends my own age and younger are experiencing scares and actual finds. 🙁 I’m glad you’re in the clear, but I thank you for sharing your mindset during the wait. Some scary thoughts but totally normal. (Hugs) to you.

    Reply this comment
  10. Jen W.
    Jen W. 25 January, 2014, 08:03

    I recently turned 40, and after the 10,000th person reminded me, I went in for a mammogram. I got a phone call almost immediately afterward to go in for another one. Another extremely fast phone call (used to doctors calling back in a leisurely two to three days) and I was on my way back in. Two mammograms and a biopsy within 48 hours. I just kept thinking- this is it- the warranty is up. All the smoking and boozing and McDonald’s has finally caught up to me. One funny note- they gave us pink smocks to wear in the waiting room whilst being shuffled here and there. The smock crossed over the front and tied. There was a lady in her 70’s that had not bothered to tie anything, and just sat there letting it all hang out. She had not one fuck to give. This was the only laugh I had in those two days of terror. In the end, it came back as a “fatty mass”, and they chipped me so they would know where I had been checked for next year. I felt so absurdly grateful for my body after that. The next time I went running, I was almost overcome with gratitude that I could keep on going. It was almost a week before I had could have a drink and a cigarette. Seriously though- I am resolved to make better choices- I want to live long enough to be that lady in the waiting room with my boobs out.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 25 January, 2014, 09:58

      Dear Jen — love your story (and the lady flashing her boobs). I guess appreciating our bodies is right up there with appreciating our loved ones. We have to always be grateful for everything our body is doing so well.

      Reply this comment
  11. A Pleasant House
    A Pleasant House 25 January, 2014, 09:07

    Thank God! I required an additional ultrasound once. The wait between the mammogram/ultrasound and the ‘all clear’ was awful. So glad your boobs are just lumpy. Never thought I’d say that.

    Reply this comment
  12. Diane
    Diane 25 January, 2014, 10:06

    Yikes! So far, I’ve not had this type of scare. So glad the news was good.
    P.S. I do know what the saying,’Make hay while the sun shines’ means. Just ask us farm girls. 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 25 January, 2014, 20:42

      Diane — What does that saying meann??? Does this have something to do with being a farmer’s daughter??

      Reply this comment
  13. Barbara @ www.allmylivesnow.com
    Barbara @ www.allmylivesnow.com 26 January, 2014, 16:31

    Been there and done that. Thankfully for both of us it was a quirk of the boob. 2 of my family members have had breast cancer and have lived to tell their tales.

    Barbara @ http://www.allmylivesnow.com

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 27 January, 2014, 09:27

      Hi Barbara — “quirk of the boob” is my favorite phrase of the week!

      Reply this comment
  14. Rachel Derham
    Rachel Derham 27 January, 2014, 22:48

    Well I had to have both my tits off, followed by 2 rounds of chemo before I said ‘Knob-off’, then 14 months of Tamoxifen before I said ‘knob-off’ then get my head around staying alive until finally, I have sort of decided I’m ready for re-construction, which will NOT unfortunately involve a tummy tuck. I do not have enough body fat – which is the only time I will ever bemoan that fact. Free implants it is then. Life’s good.

    Reply this comment
  15. Dawn
    Dawn 22 March, 2014, 05:07

    Thanks for the reminder to make my gyn appointment, Shannon! And because I was curious to see the origin of “make hay while the sun shines”, here you go:

    To take an opportunity to do something when the time and conditions are near perfect or available.
    From agriculture, when farmers gather the long grass growth of summer to dry it to produce hay as winter feed for animals; The best time to cut and dry the hay is during sunny days.

    I am going to enjoy these sunny days!

    Reply this comment
  16. Leslie
    Leslie 26 June, 2014, 06:13

    A scary moment to be sure…so happy that it was just a lumpy boob. My mom had a small lump removed a year ago & went through radiation after a lumpectomy. She’s great but I’m on red alert. I have estrogen dominance (an working on balancing those) & I’m loaded with lead & mercury so doing a heavy metal detox & balancing my hormones & living REALLY clean is top of my list. i can live without them but I like having boobs!

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