Tits Up

jen parker
15 min readJul 7, 2023

I found out I had breast cancer in early May.

I’ve been told for many years that I have tricky breast tissue; dense, hard to read, littered with spotty spots. So I’ve been on a carousel of vigilance — getting checked every six months — an MRI in the spring, an ultrasound in the fall.

As I feel every time these appointments approach, I wanted to postpone-or-maybe cancel my April appointment. Hadn’t I just been checked?? And what if I got bad news? Bad news would be very bad for my spring schedule. My older son was graduating, the last of his high school baseball career packed into the coming weeks; my older daughter was coming home for three weeks to visit before living in Boston for the summer; my younger daughter was studying for finals and hatching a new summer plan daily; my youngest had Cape Cod and cousins on the brain, telling me hourly he could not wait to see them, confirming and reconfirming with me that I also could not wait to see them.

So I considered pushing the appointment. Just a little. Past the summer, a season not meant for serious things. Yes, yes: I’d wait til early fall — except then I’d have college drop-offs and parents weekends and football games. Ok — til late fall. But it’d be a shame to ruin Thanksgiving. I love that cozy holiday. And obviously December is too merry for grinchy news. So maybe mid January, which is a terrible time of year all on its own? That might be a good time for a bad thing.

But sitting with my airpods in, ready to dial the Imaging Center to reschedule, I ticked off all those months of delay on my fingers and saw my hands were full.

So I went for the MRI as scheduled, entubed and panicky, wondering what all the loud sounds were bumping into in my body. Days later, I got called back for things the radiologist didn’t like on both sides. The left side spot appeared less friendly and was also easier to access, so I went for an ultrasound-guided biopsy on that one first.

If AI takes over any one thing, I hope it’s ultrasounds. It’s not that I’ve always had bad techs doing these. It’s just that I don’t think this is a job for humans. I don’t want someone to keep sliding a wand over an area, re-gelling and bearing down harder, huhhing and humphing about my tissue as if it’s a funny prankster due a detention. I don’t like sighs that sound like a diagnosis. I think robots could and would act a lot less loaded about it all.

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jen parker

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