FROM tit to teat.
That about summarizes my cycle, from the adolescent wonder of discovering that a once-flat-as-a-board chest has become not just a fount but a volcano of sensations, to motherhood’s gushes of sustenance, connectedness and power, to this premenopausal reminder that this organ once known only by monosyllabic nicknames (“tits,” “boobs,” “front”) does have a polysyllabic moniker (“mammary glands”) that captures better these twin peaks of unforeseeable moods.
Like the bullets of an imaginary Powerpoint presentation, my 47 years flashed as I stared at the ceiling of a room where I waited for the team to conduct an ultrasound-guided FNAB.
At a particular age, one acquires new words from just five minutes on a consultation couch. I learned “mammogram” and “sonomammogram” after a January 1 discovery of a lump on my left breast. “FNAB” became an addition after May 1, when I touched a painful mass in the right breast. (That these breasts seem to time their surprises on public holidays is a huge help for recalling bio history, the most popular request in hospitals.)
Since a mammo entailed only partial nudity and seconds of mechanical squeezing and a sonomammo was merely gooey and messy, I thought the FNAB was just another jargon that’s hard to spell out until I overheard the coordinator of the health maintenance organization say aloud, “fine needle”.
Instantly, I remembered my Practical Arts teacher, Ms. Tan, who praised the peanuts I planted but made me perpetually rip my untidy stitches. Whether because of past sewing mishaps or present paranoia with medical jargon, I felt only extreme prejudice against a procedure that may end up deflating Poor Peaks.
Fortunately, the hospital policy was to schedule procedures a day after, giving me time to Google. Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB), or fine needle aspiration (FNA), means a specialist, guided by ultrasound imaging, inserts a very small needle to suck out (“aspirate”) from an abnormal growth sample cells to determine if the growth is benign or cancerous.
In scheduling the FNAB, I met a member of the medical team. A former student, Dr. Evadyne Bontilao studied Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines Cebu before proceeding to medicine. After specializing in radiology, she plans to serve her hometown in Maranding, Lanao del Norte.
In explaining the procedure to me, Evadyne filled a gap that doctors seldom grasp: a patient’s need for information to come to grips with the unknown.
That is why, on the day of the FNAB, I projected on the ceiling as much information as I could to soothe my anxiety: takes only an hour or less, with local anaesthesia, less invasive, more accurate, no scarring.
Unfortunately, the ceiling was mango-yellow, reminding me of the ice cream flavor I favored as a child, in the good old days when I was still as flat as a board and did not have to deal with Temperamental Peaks.
A junior member of the team did not fare as well, too. When he mentioned for the video recording his “preparation of the equipments,” the senior specialist harrumphed and querulously asked him, “Equipments ‘gyud’? Why not ‘equipment’?” And when the young man declared I had “no allergies,” his senior was aggrieved by the use of the plural form to signify non-existence.
The grammar tutorial was strangely bolstering. A fellow picky about language could be skillful in needlecraft, too.
However, true to his generation, the specialist had other proclivities not in the realm of homemaking. While we watched on the monitor the image of the needle seeking out the cysts, a virtual hole in the sea of echo waves of breast tissue, the specialist answered my questions while making comic book sounds like POP! KA-BLAM! POUFF! as fluid was withdrawn and each mini mean circle collapsed from being to nothingness on the ultrasound monitor.
A friend once said that the worst part of a biopsy is waiting for the results, even if the result later turns out to be good. After introducing Twin Peaks to Iron Man, I cannot wait to find out where the action takes me.
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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 5, 2013 issue of the main op-ed column, “Matamata”