The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 5, 1976 · Page 45
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 45

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 5, 1976
Page 45
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Palm Beach Post-Times, Sunday, December 5, 1976-C11 Mammography From CI- 'Some of these women are killing themselves, and most of them really have nothing to fear. They think having a lump means they have cancer, and that's not true. Nine out of 10 lumps are benign.'" American Cancer Society Spokesman seems like a good idea to have it out. Okay?" Okay? Sure okay. What choice did I have, not okay? I hung up and looked at the phone, but I was not thinking about California now. I was thinking about cancer. Not that I knew what to think. So I thought about the word. I said it to myself: cancer. Then I thought about the lump, and then about the breast. My breast. I rubbed against it with the inside of my upper arm. Having a lump removed doesn't take long, I thought. It can't be more than a day. (c) Bttty Rellln the phone one day. "Some of these women are killing themselves, and most of them really have nothing to fear. They think having a lump means they have cancer, and that's not true. Nine out of 10 lumps are benign." "I know that," I said to her. "As a matter of fact, I have one of those, myself." I went back to Dr. Ellby before the year was up. My first visit had been in June 1974. Now it was late March 1975. Same rigmarole as last time. Strip to the waist. A little cursory feel from Dr. Ellby. "That's my lump," I said when he got to it. He looked at me. "I had it a year ago. You said it was nothing and that I should come back in a year." I was annoyed at having to explain. He nodded and drew a black circle around the lump with a pen. "That'll wash off," he said and walked out. "Pick up your things and come with me, please," said the technician, young, small and pale like last year's... Another breast sandwich, just as unpleasant. I got dressed and went outside, took a walk around the block, and called my husband from the delicatessen on the corner. "I have to wait for the goddam pictures to be developed." I told him, "so it'll be at least another half-hour." I went back to Dr. Ellby's. When I got there, there were only two women left and the receptionist. "He wants to do a few more," she said. "Oh?" I said, and went in. This time Dr. Ellby himself did the job. No simple sandwich this time. Nor was it the same machine. This one was smaller (and colder) and instead of clamping the breast top and bottom, I had to bend over so he could clamp it together from the side. The problem, I gathered from his mumblings, was the location of EXCLUSIVE JO4 He did not speak immediately, and when he spoke he pronounced each word as if he had had a rehearsal. The words I remember were "... nothing to worry about, but it really should come out." I didn't speak right away, either. "When?" "I'll give you the number of a surgeon, Dr. Singermann he's first-rate. Make an appointment with him and he'll do the rest." "Does it have to be right away?" I was vaguely alarmed, but mostly it sounded like another annoyance, more time wasted. "I'm going to California for a week. Is it should I try to get back sooner I mean, how serious is it?" "The end of the week would be just fine, Betty," Dr. Smith said, not really answering my question. "Look," he added, when he realized I was hanging on for more, "most of these things are benign. It just SCHUPLER'1 KJ 418 CLEMATIS ST. Y OPEN MON. THRU SAT. 9:30 to 5:30 DOWNTOWN WEST PALM BEACH UNIQUE Maskaim LARGEST SELECTION IN THE For a Beautiful Christmas TREE TRIMS DOOR PIECES CANDLES LIGHTS ARRANGEMENTS THE APPLE SHOP Delray Beach 298 N.E. 2nd AVE. PALM BEACHES I SPECIALIZING IN Jewelry CORAL 325 Worth Ave. or 326 Peruvian GOLDNUGGET Palm Ust Our CenvtnfMf LAY-A-WAY PLAN MEMBER OF PARK A SHOP FREE the lump. It was so far over on the side that the other machine didn't get it. The pictures showed nothing bad; they just didn't show anything. All the same, I felt a small knot in my stomach. "Uh, when do I get the results?" I said, trying not to sound worried. "Results will go in the mail ..." blah blah . . . "Of course, if there's anything wrong, we'll call your doctor." "When?" "Tomorrow." The next day, I flipped the Rolodex to Dr. Smith's number, stared at it for about 10 seconds, and decided to let myself be a pest. "I'm sorry to bother you," I said when he came to the phone, "but I was at Ellby's yesterday, and he said if anything were wrong, he'd call you, so I guess he hasn't, but I just thought I'd check because I'm probably going out of town ..." HANDCRAFTED & Gifts PEARL Phone 659-6487 Beach mM r" Wedge I i L mi f aft (sFrnmi. and the controversies about them. She knew a lot. But as the correspondent spoke to the camera, telling the nation what she knew about breast cancer, there was one thing she did not know. She did not know that she had it herself. I had a lump for a year. At least a year. It was a hard little thing about the size of a yellow grape and it resided, imperceptible except to the touch, on the far left side of my left breast, due west of the nipple. I knew it was there, my husband knew it was there, my internist knew it was there, and my mammo-grapher knew it was there. Of the four, only one was worried about it. That was Arthur Herzog, the husband, who had found it on a spring evening in 1974 during a routine sexual feel. "What's that?" he said. "I don't know," I said. "It's a lump," he said. "Mmmm," I said, wanting to sleep. "Will you get it looked at?" he said. "Sure," I said, and went to sleep. I got it looked at. "It's nothing to worry about," said my internist on Central Park West, whom I'll call Dr. Smith. "Feels like a cyst. A lot of women have them. But we'll send you for some mammograms." I went .for some mammograms. "This doesn't worry me a bit," said my mammographer on East 90th Street, whom I'll call Dr. Ellby. He held up his pictures of my lump to the light. "Come back in a year and we'll have another look." Whew. Not that I had been worried, either. Well, maybe just a little. Anyway, I was glad to be out of there. Mammograms low-radiation X-rays that show the inner structure of the breast and can, theoretically, pinpoint the location of even the smallest abnormality are not pleasant things to have. The experience often is likened to having a chest X-ray, but it's not like that at all. When you have a chest X-ray, you stand, shoulders forward, against a machine, and the machine performs. Mammograms require a different kind of participation. Before the picture-taking even begins, one has to tolerate the sensible and essential but unnerving business of being "palpated" (medically felt up) by the mammographer. Then, holding your paper gown together with one hand and grabbing your purse, bra and blouse with the other, you are bustled off to another room where, topless and chilly, you sit on a small stool before a large machine. A technician a young woman, usually, who moves fast and doesn't talk much takes your breast in her hand and puts it, as if it were a slab of beef, on a slab of steel. Then her arm shoots up and she cranks down another slab of steel, thereby creating a sort of breast sandwich. Your flattened breast is the filling. "Say when it hurts," says the young woman, who has become part of the machine. "Ouch," you say, and she stops cranking. "Don't breathe," she says, as if you could. Bam, slam. Click, slam. "Breathe," she says. "Then like ballet exercises, repeat on the other side. (Crank, crank. "Don't breathe." Bam, slam. Click, slam. "Breathe.") And that's it. But you can't go home. Not yet. You go out to the waiting room filled with women on mahogany chairs and aqua settees reading House Beautifuls and old Newsweeks or not reading at all, and there you wait either to be dismissed (no cancer) or called back for more pictures (maybe cancer). Not that that word is spoken either out here or in there. It is as silent as the g in sign. But, like the g in sign, it is there. It was there in my head as I waited in Ellby's dreary waiting room on that day in June. But it was there the way "rape" was there. A buried terror, far, far under the ground. My remote fear of breast cancer virtually ended when Ellby said he wasn't worried, and the fear was entirely finished off a week later when, after seeing the mammograms, Smith said he wasn't worried. Ellby was the mammogram emperor of the greater New York area ("Surgeons send their wives to him," a doctor friend had told me); Dr. Smith was my trusted (impeccably reputed) internist of eight years. If they weren't worried, why should I be? "Don't be silly!" I barked at Arthur when he brought it up again a month later. "It's nothing! I had it looked at, didn't I?" "But it's so hard," he said meekly- "It's supposed to be hard. It's a fi-bro-ad-e-no-ma," I said, pronouncing each syllable; pleased with myself for remembering what it was called. "It's a cyst. Cysts are hard. A lot of women have them, and they're not cancer." Almost a year passed. By now, due to the publicized mastectomies of Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller, breast cancer was in the news. Because of that and because of my own piece, I knew a lot more about breast cancer than I had 10 months ago. So did most people. Publicity educates, and so does fear. People were suddenly aware of the high incidence of the disease. Ninety thousand cases had been reported in 1974 alone. MORE WOMEN DIE OF BREAST CANCER, read a headline in the New York Times. "In North America and Western Europe 1 woman in 25 dies of breast cancer. In women in the 25 to 34 age group, the disease is second only to accidents and suicide as a cause of death, while it is the leading cause for women aged 35 to 54 and, at higher ages, second only to cardiovascular diseases." Of course, fear did not always lead to action. Some women found lumps themselves, but instead of doing something about it they became paralyzed with fear. "It's really a shame," someone from the American Cancer Societv said to me on What could go better with a stylish new pair of shoes than a stylish new handbag FREE! Wedges, espadrilles, oxfords, boots, slings, pumps, crepes and more... with each pair of women's shoes you buy we invite you to select the handbag of your choice (selling up to $8.99). It's the perfect complement to a new pair of shoes. And miniature gardens CORNER 45th ST. & AUSTRALIAN AVE. SHADE GROWN DECORATOR PLANTS to 8' DRACENA MASSANGEANA FICUS BENJAMINA ARECA PALMS FREE PLANT WITH THIS AD BBB y SIZES 14V"i TO 52 BankAmericaro from $10.99 A.S. 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