By Michelle Glick
I was 10 years old when the beauty of breasts first entered my consciousness. I was hanging out in my mother’s room mimicking her. First I placed myself in front of her light up magnifying mirror with the day, office, and night settings. I began to apply make- up just as she did except for the constant changing of the light setting. Next I strapped on her bra, fastening it in front, sliding it around, pretending to slide in some breast and putting my arms through the loops. With surprise in her voice I heard, “Wow, look how good you look! You will look so skinny once you really have them!
I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that this was a defining moment for me! I wanted BOOBS! I was already aware of the tortured reality that I was built like my grandmother who even in her 60s and beyond looked 10 months pregnant. This meant some day people might not notice mine was a rounded shaped body!
From that day on I looked forward to the arrival of a developed chest, and by 12, my wish came true. Of course there is truth in the saying be careful what you wish for because it wasn’t as smooth a transition as I had imagined. Finding a comfortable bra, realizing that there wasn’t one to make running comfortable, hearing my aunt tell me I didn’t need them (she did), and having Bill Slezak make rude comments as I shimmied away at the 8th grade dance made me see that there was a down side but nothing to overtake my joy.
Even when I went for my first dreaded mammogram because I was turning 40, I did not give it a thought. I walked in thinking this was just another milestone in my life as a woman, each stage having another club to join, a few more jokes to understand first hand. But it turned out I joined a group I never wanted to be a part of and that will never completely let me unjoin. After a few more tests, I was diagnosed with a malignant phyllodes tumor in my left breast.
I had an 8-month-old baby boy at home and now I was terrified that I wouldn’t be around to see him get to his first birthday. I don’t remember much about the first fews days after I was diagnosed except for the fear, anxiety, and a headache from trying to find information on the internet. My cancer is still one with very little information to find.
Eight years later, I am still cancer free, but it continues to color my world. The fear that the cancer will come back lays hidden under the surface bubbling up here and there. It is there each morning when I look at myself in the mirror as I step out of the shower. The scar, the small tattoo to line up the radiation machine, the full size difference after two lumpectomies are my daily reminders. At night, lying in bed, I turn on my stomach to be reminded again. There is still, after all these years, some discomfort.
But these are also reminders of another of life’s challenges I have won! It is part of what motivates me each morning to focus on the important; my relationships with the people in my life, and why it is so important for me to take good care of myself. So, late at night when the anxiety creeps up again, I acknowledge it then actively change the station in my mind as quickly as I can to make the most of another day.
Michelle Glick has been an educator for 24 years, having taught preschoolers up to elementary school kids in the Chicago Public Schools. Using those experiences, she is writing a book on play and school readiness. When not teaching or spending time with her husband and 7-year-old son, Michelle loves to volunteer in her community with a goal of improving the lives of women and children.