COMMENT: I was having a terrible week. I mean it just felt terrible. From the outside things were fine: I was taking the kids to musical theatre class, I was making fish pie, fixing household items with duct tape, everything was normal. But inside, the shame was back.
Turns out I have been wrong about everything I have ever done. Why haven't I spent my life being someone else entirely? I should have been a high-powered businesswoman, an auditor maybe, or a yummy mummy in skinny jeans and ballet flats.
Something other than this, whatever "this" is, middling, confused, wearing a lot of scarves.
Holy moly. It was all clear. Instead of sending the kids to an alternative school I should have made them play lacrosse and wear hooray henry stripey blazers and lots of badges. (Bit late now, and also: fat chance).
What's to become of them? They're never going to be high-powered auditors or yummy mummies and it's-all-my-fault.
And what about me? I try to speed up past mirrors but it's hard to avoid even catching sight of yourself. I used to say I had a "character" arse, but now my butt has spun off with a cast of its own.
Used to be, if I put on a bit of weight, I'd just eat broccoli for a few days and be able to fit my clothes again (not leather pants but not caftans either). Not any more.
Menopause: it's a shitshow. And yes, of course that is ridiculously shallow and doesn't matter, but on another level: the diktat of social cachet ... ouch.
When I get like this, there is a sense of being wrong to the very fibre of my being.
And it was supposed to be my week of doing the grudge work of personal maintenance because you know: I'd made appointments. One of them was to see a physio, for the very first time ever. He did that whistling through his teeth thing that mechanics do when your car's suspension is stuffed. And I felt like a fraud at the "breast centre of excellence" listening to Shania Twain, waiting for my overdue mammogram. I have very nondescript breasts that were not even a high-kicking feature in their heyday, let alone qualifying for being top notch aged 51.
I was grateful my boobs managed to feed my two babies, although after that I was kind of lopsided. And when I'd got dressed that morning I should have worn a better bra.
Are big or small ones easier I asked the lady as she manipulated my breast "tissue" (ew) into place. She said it depends, but maybe she was just trying to minimise the indignity. It still feels like having your tit slammed in a fridge door.
I got the call that night while I was frying fish fingers.
I don't normally answer my phone, but it was a Remuera number and I just knew. The nurse from the breast centre of excellence repeated that two doctors had looked at my mammogram - two doctors - and there was something - a spot - that they needed to take another look at.
My right breast tissue was not that excellent after all. Figures. The right one was always the poor hard-working jug the kids preferred.
I couldn't sleep that night. So, was this what life had in store for me? I've worn pink ribbons and been to breast cancer fundraisers and have known women who have been through this.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Kiwi women, and is more common in women aged over 50. More than three thousand women are diagnosed every year. Why shouldn't it be my turn?
I soaped my right bosom as I had a shower, wondering what mysteries it held. It looked as normal as ever, but it was like an unexploded bomb, threatening to blow up my life.
I went back and saw a different doctor, an elegant woman in a pencil skirt and slingback stilettos. I felt like clinging on to her ankles.
This time they took more pictures of my knockers. And an ultrasound which felt a bit sad. The last time I had one of these it was baby time and it was a joyous moment, not the reckoning of the big C.
At least this time the gooey KY jelly-stuff they use was pleasantly warm rather than cold. The doctor told me they used to use a baby bottle warmer to warm the jelly, but then it spilt on the head doctor's notes, so now they have a proper medical device.
The doctor was very nice. I learnt a lot about dense breast tissue. About 40 per cent of women are reported to have dense breast tissue. Breast density is an independent risk factor for breast cancer, and the sensitivity of mammography to detect malignancy is diminished in dense breasts.
In 32 US states there are breast density notification laws, which require doctors to inform women they have dense breasts which might need supplementary imaging, so they can avoid a lawsuit.
She talked very gently, with such a kind, empathetic bedside manner it took me a while to realise she was saying I had dense breasts but they couldn't see any cancer on the scans after all.
I cried a little on my own, in the car, after. It turns out everything is just okay as it is. You don't have to be high-powered or yummy. Just being alive is enough. It turned out to be the best week ever.