Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 2000/ 14 Tishrei, 5761

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

"You Have a Lump." -- THE PINK TOPS are on the Yoplait yogurt; it is breast cancer awareness month. The shiny foil tops are a reminder about early detection and a health problem that kills 44,000 women each year. The pink tops have new meaning for me this year. They take me back to the summer of 2000 when a routine mammogram went south.

It wasn't the mammogram itself, although they haven't changed much in 30 years. You're still 50% buck-naked in a room with a stranger who compresses your upper body like Wile E. Coyote under an anvil. As you chew the inside of your mouth, your newfound techie friend says, "The more compression, the better." Medieval Star Chamber supervisors uttered the same words as serfs groaned.

Dang that Jack Welch with his six sigma quality even in his mammogram machines. GE doesn't always bring good things to life. My mammogram was "abnormal." Translation: You have a lump.

I have long followed the women's restroom door advice about self-examination, early detection and regular check-ups. But the doors don't explain that the post-lump phase is agonizing, at once a time of panic, reflection and dark humor.

Time may be of the essence, per bathroom doors, but apparently no one among the medical community, insurers or schedulers uses the restroom. Just getting to the person who left me the mammogram phone message was tough. Her message was, "Call us back as soon as possible." Why not just say, "Mercy! You can't believe what we found on your mammogram." It took one-half day and seven calls to get the news.

It would be two weeks before the follow-up sonogram . My surroundings were merciless reminders. The very day of the lump disclosure the Victoria's Secret catalog arrived. When my double-breasted blazer was ready at the dry cleaner's I wondered what downsizing it would cost. Even lines at the grocery store brought no relief. The latest from The Star was that Chyna, the WWF female wrestler, was reeling because her right breast exploded during a match. I picked up the same publication that had Hillary giving birth to an alien earlier this year as a research resource for fear had overpowered rational thought. Inquiring minds will be happy to know only Chyna's implant exploded.

The two weeks flew by at about the pace of an impaired single-engine Cessna in fog. I used the time to compile a list of everyone I could think of who had had breast cancer. For every survivor, there was a contra view. Betty Ford. Linda McCartney.

The sonogram finds you still 50% buck-naked, but with a physician stranger who does not smash your upper body between tectonic plates. The doc's jaw dropped when the sonogram "wand" came to "the lump." It wouldn't have been more obvious if she had lifted her hand to her mouth and gasped. Before she began, I interrupted, "I know. I could tell from your face." She said she usually tried not to let patients know by her expressions. Patients with the observation skills of silk banana plants, apparently.

Onward for the biopsy. Time is so much of the essence that it will be another two weeks. But these two weeks bring respect for women who have stoically made it through this process and worse. There is sadness for those who don't take the mammogram leap. There are the priorities that come only when life's fleeting qualities are clear. The ongoing calls, scheduling and tears require that my children be brought in on the loop. I felt heaven on earth as my teary-eyed first-grader told me he had a "bump" once and it went away.

The unknown changes the character of relationships. The daily calls from a sister who asked simply, "Doing okay?" were angelic. E-mails from a friend who has been there and done this and more were inspirational Who can't use a daily long distance call from a blindly optimistic father who assured, "You've done everything right," ?

The biopsy finds me at the Desert Breast Center. You can never find a militant feminist when you need one. Why worry about medical privacy laws? You aren't hauling into the Desert Breast Center for bunions. The irony of the Desert Breast Center (and is a Tundra Breast Center different?) is that there are only men folk there who await ladies secluded in the overscheduled inner sanctum. When another woman finally came in, I sparked conversation with, "Trouble with the old hooters, eh?"

The biopsy was quick, but I would say under oath that they used a Home Depot staple gun to do it. It will be another five days before the results come on a Friday evening from a dedicated nurse who understood that waiting a weekend would be greater torture than Jack Welch's compression chamber of horrors. The lump has no "atypical" tissue. I am free for another six months until a new date with Doc Poker Face.

That it is not cancer brings tears of joy. That I face a lifetime of monitoring is surprisingly welcome. Welcome because perspective too often flees when crises dissipate. Life's fragility will always be with me. I have the gift of uncertainty which finds me smiling at those Yoplait tops, grateful for their reminders about life, tests and early detection. Never miss the chance for all three. Heed the restroom doors and live.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


10/06/00: The government as the pharmacy: Don't
09/29/00: The capacity for truth
09/22/00: Charity with strings and an agenda
09/15/00: The taming of the shrew: Gloria Steinem takes a husband
09/09/00: Why rich folk don't bother me none
08/28/00: Survival of the not-so-fit but conniving
08/25/00: Conventions: A study in contrasts
08/18/00: Resenting the accusations of racial prejudice
08/04/00: Women: Their own worst enemy
07/21/00: Hillary: Our longshoreman First Lady
07/21/00: SUVs: The root of all evil
07/14/00: The basketball gene and white men not jumping so well
07/07/00: I wanna be around
06/23/00: The liberal conversion
06/14/00: Sex and the City: The shallow but vulgar female
06/08/00: No excuses schools
06/02/00: Oh, Canada: Our Nutty Neighbors to the North
05/23/00: The new mollycoddling coach
05/16/00: On adultery and leadership
05/12/00: Taking your lumps
05/02/00: Elian: There's never a liberal around when you need one
04/25/00: Life's circle and tenderness
04/18/00: Womyn who want it both ways
04/11/00: The monsters we're raising with the ergo proposition
04/05/00: Endowing the Hooters Chair for Literature Appreciation
03/28/00: Dr. Laura: The passive/aggressive kid's mom
03/21/00: Dough and campaigns
03/14/00: The volunteerism of conscription and pomp
03/07/00: Hope and pray that religion remains a force in politics
02/29/00: Ditzes in TV Land
02/22/00: Cranky nitpickers make writing a [sic] experience
02/15/00: Those chameleon 60s activists
02/08/00: McCandidate McCain: Flirting with principles
02/01/00: The demise of marriage
01/25/00: Stroke of the pen, law of the land: Clinton's Camelot
01/18/00: Off the Rocker Rorschach Test
01/11/00: Oprah's lemmings
01/04/00: Struggling mightily amidst the comfort
12/23/99: Confused fathers
12/14/99: Drop-kicking the homeless
12/07/99: Turtles and teamsters, side-by-side in Seattle
11/29/99: When conservatives behave badly
11/22/99: Compassionate conservative: Timing and targets
11/18/99: The elusive human spirit and accountability
11/11/99: Succumbing to the intellectual child within with the help of crackpots and screwballs
10/28/99: Live by litigation, die by litigation
10/22/99: Jesse, Warren, Cybill, Donald and Oprah
10/14/99: Inequality and injustice: It's the big one
10/05/99: Dan Quayle, morals and schoolyard bullies
09/30/99: The monsters of epidermal parenting
09/21/99: The Diversity Hoax
09/15/99: Waco Wackos
09/09/99: Selective censorship
09/01/99: The village, the children, judicial imperialism and abortion
08/24/99: Naughty Newt?
08/17/99: In defense of Boy Scouts and judgment
08/10/99: Ruining the finest health care system in the world
08/03/99: Nihilism and politics: ethics on the lam
07/26/99: Of women, soccer and removed jerseys
07/23/99: Not in despair, a mere mortal doing just fine
07/20/99: "Why me?" How about "Why us?"
07/13/99: Bunk, junk & juries
07/06/99: An Amish woman in a Victoria's Secret store
06/30/99: That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment
06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings