Friday, February 26, 2010

Things I think about during chemo

Five to six hours gives you a long time to think.  Here are some of the things I ponder as I go through my treatments.

What is up with the word Mastectomy?  I didn't have my mast removed, I had my breast removed.   A mastectomy should only take place on a boat.

If you are having a mammogram to see if your mammary glands are healthy, then why wouldn't you have a mammoectomy?  Of course, they remove a lot more than just mammary glands - they take everything, including skin, areola, nipple, so it wouldn't be very accurate. But neither is mastectomy.

The word mastectomy is derived from the words "mastoid process," which is an oddly-named bone in your ear - one which is apparently shaped like a breast.


Who decided that?  I bet when men need a penis amputation, they don't rename it after a cute little bone in the wrist that looks like a penis  Oh no, honey, you and I both know that they would name it after the biggest bone in the body.  It'd be called a femurectomy. 

Why is it when your breast is removed it's a mastectomy, but when your arm (or penis) is removed, it's an amputation?  I'm not equating the necessity of an arm over a breast, but if they take off a body part, isn't it all an amputation?

I suggest we rename this surgery  Breastectomy or Breast Amputation.  Boobectomy would be an acceptable alternative, but not SweaterPuppyectomy.

How do I refer to my girl(s) now? I never realized how often the subject of breast(s) comes up. Maybe that's because I'm not a guy. But, since I've had my right breast removed, it seems I have to refer to that area of my body often. Obviously, I do that on this blog but it also comes up in conversation a lot more than you might think.

No, I won't say why.

The problem is,  I'm stuck on phrasing. What do I call that area? I don't have breasts anymore. I have a breast and a


tissue expander? That doesn't sound right for casual conversation.

The royal family has an heir and a spare, right?  So, do I have a breast and a mess?  No, that's not very positive, is it.  How about, breast and a quest?  A quest to turn that area into something resembling a normal breast?

Old-fashioned women say "bosom" and I suppose I could resurrect that.  It serves a dual purpose.  But, really, the only word that works is "chest" and that makes you sound like a man. 

Speaking of men:  Men get breast cancer too.  But, how is that possible?  Men don't have breasts.  They don't have lobes and they aren't designed to nurse a baby.  Male "breasts" are mostly just fat.  That area on them is called their chest, or if they work out, their pectorals.  So, what kind of surgery do they have?  A mastectomy isn't an appropriate word because while they have a Mastoid Process bone in their ear, just like we do, they don't have the conical shape appendages on their chests that the surgery is named after.

So, why isn't their surgery called something else?  Perhaps they can have Pecectomies. Fatectomies?

Chemo. It's such a happy little word, isn't it?  We patients don't go to have our chemical therapy infusions,  we go to chemo.  Yay!  Chemo is cute!  If I had a girl I might name her Chemo, only I'd spell it Khymo.  Why aren't other treatment names shortened to happy little nouns?    If somebody has a Coronary Artery Bypass they don't say, "Hey, I'm going to catch a CAB" now, do they?.

Why don't we have darling little names for all sorts of frightening medical procedures?  We could just call surgery "sugar."

"Oh honey, Wednesday I'm having a little sugar on my lady parts."

Heh, I said sugar on lady parts.  I bet that gets somebody's femur all excited.

Now you know the kinds of things I think about in that Barcalounger at Khymo when my iPhone battery runs out.  Aren't you glad you aren't in my brain?



  1. According to my dictionary, "mastos" is Greek for breast. I think the mastoid process was named after the breast, and not the other way around, but I could be wrong.

  2. Don't spoil the fun of a woman with chemo brain. :)

  3. I'd love to be in your head - I'd never be bored!

  4. The amazing rambles of the brain on chemo drugs. I used to have weird thoughts during chemo... until I would fall asleep.

  5. I guess I didn't do a lot of wandering around in my head during chemo, but oh, my gosh, the dreams! There was some really vivid dreaming going on. Your wanderings made me laugh out loud, and I think I missed a great opportunity during chemo.

  6. Funny post! As a nurse, I can fill you in on a few odd terms commonly used to refer to some conditions:

    For example: A Coronary Artery Bypass Graft is often written in the chart as a "CABG," and pronounced "Cabbage." Really! It's true.

    Doctors often say, "Mr. Smith is a 69 year old who underwent a cabbage in 2005."

    Lots of initials are used: HOH means "hard of hearing." OOB means a patient is able to get "out of bed."

    It's a whole new language out there!

  7. So, if they can't get out of bed, they are a nOOb? Which is really s spin-off of newb, which is short for newbie, meaning somebody new to the internet or a designated section thereof.

    Or hospital bed.

    There is a derivation I don't need to look up, not being a newbie to the internet world. :)

  8. Hi Ann!

    No , if they can't get OOB they are on BR (meaning bedrest).
    If they can do most of their own hygiene care, like brush their teeth, eat unassisted, etc. then they can perform their own "ADL's", or "activities of daily living."

    It just goes on... and on... and ...

  9. ann, you are one odd chick. or OOC, which when i was in college stood for "out of control". which i guess you are also.

    and a BFR, or big fat riot. you're good for my mood. maybe we should classify you as an SSRI?

  10. Love this post...we should create a whole new dictionary!

  11. "Why is it when your breast is removed it's a mastectomy, but when your arm (or penis) is removed"

    Cancer of the penis ... mmm ... not heard of that ... so much for equality ...

    Chop chop. :) Px

  12. OMG Ann, you are a riot. I hope we get to meet some day!


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