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How NOT to Tell Your Daughter That You May or May Not Have Inflammatory Breast Cancer

Note: Since my mom received her diagnosis in October 2011 and it’s clearly no longer October, I’m including dates to better illustrate the progression of events.

The following conversation actually took place, including the part where my mother offered to text me a picture of her cancer-riddled breast, as well as the part where I called her an attention whore. We have a special relationship.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Her: “I need you to choose a mirror.”

Me: “I’m going to need you to elaborate first.”

Her: “I’m at Home Goods and I’m trying to decide between two mirrors for over the fireplace.”

Me: “Fun! Take pictures of them and send them to me!”

<beat>

Her: “Soooo…have you done laundry recently?”

Me: “What? Is that like some sort of coded phrase in case The Man is eavesdropping on our conversation? You know, we really need to go over these codes in person from time to time. Like, quarterly? Just to keep things fresh.”

Her: “Well yes, it’s been a while since we’ve reviewed. No, but seriously – hypothetically – if you had to pack a suitcase right now and get on a Detroit-bound plane, would you have jeans and sweaters and clean underwear ready to go? Or do you need to do a load or two of laundry?”

Me: “I don’t know how I feel about answering questions about whether my underwear is clean or not. I need a parent and/or guardian present. Wait…also, what?”

Her: “What?”

Me: “WHY DO YOU NEED A STATUS UPDATE ON MY UNDERWEAR???”

Her: “Actually, I should probably give you a status update of my boob.”

Me: “…I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Her: “<SIGH> I’m at the Home Goods in Ann Arbor. Ask me why I’m in Ann Arbor.”

Me: “Lady, you’re killing me. Knock it off with the attention whore routine of only giving the tiniest bits of information so people are forced to keep asking questions. I’m going to have a stroke.”

Her: “Don’t call your mother a whore.”

Me: “This is making me tired.”

Her: “I’m at the Home Goods in Ann Arbor because I have about an hour and a half to kill before my ultrasound and my fine needle aspiration. I just had a mammogram and a core needle biopsy. Remember that episode of Oprah where she joked about prepping for a mammogram by repeatedly slamming your breast in the refrigerator door? SPOT. ON. That screaming you probably heard all the way out in Vegas was from me.”

Me: “Oh, I…oh…?”

Her: “Sooo…last Tuesday, I noticed a rash on my right breast when I was getting out of the shower. Only it was more like…an area of pink and warm—kind of like hives or a big mosquito bite—“

Me: “Ugh, I HATE those things.”

Her: “Ugh, the WORST! But yeah, I kept my eye on it and by Thursday, the rash hadn’t gone away. Thursday night, I found a lump the size of a lima bean, and my breast started getting tender, like how it gets before your period except a hundred times worse. By Friday afternoon, the lump was the size of, like, those Pilsbury whack-a-biscuits? You know what I mean?”

Me: <searching for eyeballs, which had fallen out of my head>

Her: “Anyway, then ANOTHER lima bean has appeared on top of the whack-a-biscuit. Now, my breast looks kind of distorted and if I raise my arm, the skin distorts even further and looks like orange peel.”

Me: <feeling underneath refrigerator for eyeball> “So why did you wait a week to tell me this?!”

Her: “What? I was supposed to call you and be all ‘what’s new with you? Nothing much new here, just hanging out with my BOOB RASH.’”

Me: “Maybe? I don’t know? Could it be, like, a freak case of mastitis or something? Or MRSA? Was there a tag or something in your bra that scratched you funny? The Word That Shall Not Be Used just doesn’t spring up that fast, right?”

Her: “That’s what I’m thinking. But I saw a video back in, like, 2006 about this freak kind of Word That Shall Not Be Used that only presents as a rash and by the time you’re diagnosed, they basically tell you to get your affairs in order because it’s already too late.”

Me: “Jesus. Wait, so how on EARTH did you get a mammogram appointment so quickly? Aren’t those places so backed up that you always have to wait for, like, a month to get in?”

Her: “The doc told me to call the lab and say ‘I have a rash.’ Well apparently, that was the magic phrase to get me on the VIP list. An appointment just magically opened up for this morning. And here we are.”

Me: “That’s not ominous or anything.”

Her: “I feel like I should send you a picture to show you what I’m talking about. Can I send you a picture? OH MY GOD I JUST VOLUNTEERED TO SEXT MY DAUGHTER.”

Me: “The worst part of all of this? Until you realized the horror of what you were suggesting, I was thinking to myself ‘you know? That might not be a bad idea. We’re all friends here.’”

Her: “I’ll show it to you when you get home. Aaaanyway, do some laundry and book a flight.” <click click> “Oh, that’s Deb calling me back so I’m going to let you go. Google inflammatory breast cancer. Oh! And I’ll send you pictures of the two mirrors. Let me know which one you think will look good over the fireplace. Ok byeeeeeee!”

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