How could I not notice a basketball-sized mass in my stomach?
I have had lots of practice with denial.
After my mom died I did not have a place to put my sadness, loneliness, grief, and fear, so I denied and pushed it away.
When the toxic feelings I shoved down leaked out in a variety of ways, I denied it and pushed it away.
If we deny parts of ourselves and our humanity, we live a divided life. We cannot self reject parts of ourselves and live whole. I have been self rejecting emotionally and physically most of my life. That is why I am constantly on a journey toward deeper wholeness and healing. I am learning to recover the parts that I have rejected.
Jose asked me how I hadn’t noticed the mass. The answer is connected to my desire for breast surgery. This might be TMI, but why hold back now, right?
In high school, I was a 34DDD and they grew from there. Gravity and breastfeeding didn’t help. I did not feel comfortable in my own body and constantly tried to minimize, hide, and distract from their size. For some perspective, the Dr. took over 3 pounds and more than 5 cups of breast tissue out of EACH boob. These were not small potatoes.
(Boobs should not be bigger than a baby's head. Actually, they shouldn't be bigger than my adult head either.)
I explained to Jose that I had been self rejecting parts of my body for decades. I was a master at explaining things away or focusing on something else so I could deny/ignore realities that I didn’t like.
Most of the time I would not even BE in pictures. When I was, I would hide behind the kids.
The mass has been growing for a long time. We do not know how long, but in hindsight, I think it has been years. I looked pregnant when it was removed. I didn’t think there was something terribly wrong; instead, I attacked myself and my body.
I am eating too much junk. I need to exercise. I’m bloated. My mom carried weight in her midsection - it’s just my body type. I’m about to start my period. Deny. Deny. Deny.
My stomach was so large that it was uncomfortable. If the dog jumped on me or the girls touched my stomach while playing I would be in pain. It hurt to bend over to pick up things.
(I deleted so many pictures of my speaking engagements because of my belly. I wish I had them now to see how the mass was growing. This is October 2021.)
I was focused on getting the breast reduction, keeping all the balls in the air, avoiding taking care of myself, and denying how big it had gotten that I didn’t even think to speak to my doctor about it. She had been encouraging me to change my diet and get more exercise. To tell her my stomach was big seemed a bit obvious.
After the breast reduction, my stomach looked huge in comparison to my delightfully sized breasts. (I seriously love them. They are adorable.)
If I had not gotten the breast reduction who knows when we would have found ovarian cancer. My blood work wasn’t off, I didn’t have any other symptoms or indicators other than discomfort due to the size of the mass. There was no reason to think cancer was growing in my body.
If I had gotten the breast reduction 10 years ago, when I hoped to, there likely would not have been any cancer, yet.
It is a miracle we found it. Ovarian cancer is aggressive and brutal. Most women are diagnosed in Stage 3 and it is a very different journey. I am so fortunate mine is Stage 1.
People have asked how my gynecologist didn’t find the mass. My surgeon said once the mass grew out of the pelvic area it becomes difficult to detect.
Maybe those big boobies were a gift after all.