This isn’t writing related, unless you count that I’m a writer, and so, yeah, it is. I wouldn’t usually post something like this on this blog, but this is completely a public service announcement, and I want it in a public place. This is a repost of something I put up on Facebook a little bit ago.

I just went through a kind of a major breast cancer scare saga. Apparently, I have the kind of lumps that look and feel exactly like cancer. But they’re not. (Very yay. I know how lucky I am.)

Now I’m public service posting for anyone else who has anything like this in their present or future, diagnostically: There are things no one tells you, so here I am, telling you:

1) Not everything shows up on a mammogram. REALLY. I had 3 lumps in one breast. One walnut sized, two pencil-eraser sized. Only one of them (the big one) showed up on a mammogram. This is because I’ve got very dense boobs. Not that uncommon, but dude, who knew? I could feel the lumps, but they were invisible on the mammogram. THAT CAN HAPPEN. Insist that the lumps are there. You know your boobs. Insist on ultrasound. They show up better that way. However.

2) Even when one lump shows up on ultrasound, others might not. The other 2, I could feel, and I knew they felt bad, but they couldn’t be biopsied initially, because they were vague and unclear on the screen. Again. IF YOU CAN FEEL THEM, INSIST THEY ARE THERE.

3) Needle biopsies are done typically by ultrasound, to guide the needle, but they don’t have to be. In Seattle, for example, there is a nurse named Martha Clay at Swedish whose whole practice involves “palpation-guided biopsies” – or, the old fashioned way. She feels the lump, and sticks the needle in that way. These days, that’s unusual. Sometimes the old-fashioned way works best. It did here. Martha instantly felt both of the hitherto invisible lumps, and needle biopsied them. She rocked. I’ve got great doctors, and friends, and also? I’m a diabetic, and therefore weird things happen to my body all the time (this included – these lumps are an auto-immune reaction related to diabetes) and so I have been trained over the years to insist that things are actually wrong. Not everyone gets that training.

4) So, trust me here: you need to be loud. If I hadn’t been, only one of these lumps would have gotten biopsied. All were benign (yay!) but you know, if you’ve got a lump? You want to know. The earlier a cancerous lump is caught, the better, and sometimes you’re the only one who really knows it’s there. Love to all who helped and supported and made me feel better. This is great news, and I know lots of people are not so lucky. Just hoping to pass some luck along.

Trust yourselves, boob-owners of the internet. If you think it’s a lump, you’re probably right. Lots of lumps are totally fine. But take yourself in and get it checked out  – and really be engaged with your care providers. Everyone will be happier when a diagnosis is more precise, even if it takes work to get there.

That’s all!

Luck and love to the world. I’m happy to be healthy tonight.


PS: On DENSE BREASTS. It’s a real thing. Read this. (Why the hell does no one ever mention this? It’s really relevant!! Thanks, Diane Mapes.)



  1. Maria, you so rock. You balance a subject most of us would fumble (forgive the mixing of pigskin imagery with breasts) with humor and gravity.

    For the record, I was never pissed off at you, nor intended not to ever communicate with you after your cat stayed at my Williamsburg apartment, back in the day. Though, let me assure you, my two cats and yours were terribly unhappy with the arrangements.

    It was actually an educational experience. One afternoon, upon my return home, and having completed the litany and prayer of unlocking unreliable door knobs, deadbolts, and police locks, I discovered the origins of the phrase “the fur was flying.” I opened the door to a cloud of “kitty fluff” floating delicately in the living room air. It was the feline version of whistling inncently after doing something fucked up. I had apparently interrupted mouser mayhem.

    Months later, I was trying to track you down to get your permission to stage a two-pager you had written in Maritin’s class at Tisch. It would have been perfect to present at The American Living Room at HERE. It was a domestic disharmony piece in which the couple spoke to eachother in trumpet blasts, cymbal crashes, and other instrumental insults. Anyway, the powers that be at DWP must have thought I had sinister intentions and would not provide your contacts.

    Congrats on all the great things you have been doing! I looooove your work.


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