tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
I must admit I hadn't really expected to spend yesterday flat on my back, half naked, with two men wrestling a large needle into my left breast. It all seems a little unnecessary -- I was perfectly happy to take my doctor's word for it that I wasn't dying of breast cancer at the advanced age of not-yet-thirty -- but after initially telling me it was completely up to me if I wanted a biopsy ("just to be completely sure"), she seemed to talk herself into a state of paranoia and rang up the radiologist right then and there to make me an appointment that same lunchtime. "Just a thin needle aspiration," she said. "It's really very minor."

Naturally, the radiologist then proceeded to tell me that he didn't believe in thin needle aspirations, and that core samples were the way to go. (Hint: the needle isn't thin.) "Your breast tissue is fairly dense," he said, thoughtfully. "It may take a bit of force to get the needle into place."

The thing is, I think non-medical people -- like me -- tend not to know (or tend to forget) just how tough living human skin and flesh can be. I'm not sure why; is it because papercuts and small superficial injuries seem to happen so easily that it makes us seem delicate? Or conditioning from Hollywood, where we never get a visceral sense of the amount of force needed to create the injuries we see? Well, either way: as I stared at the ceiling while an epic amount of pushing and shoving went on inside my breast, I remembered three things:

(a) In one of my engineering classes, we learnt that human skin has excellent tensile strength but poor notch sensitivity (i.e. if you make a nick in it while it's under tension, it will tend to fail. Think of cellophane);

(b) When a friend and I, age fifteen, pierced another friend's ear with a sewing needle, it took us completely by surprise how much force was required, as well as the snap-crackle-pop sensation transmitted through the needle as her flesh yielded; and

(c) When The Boy and I and another friend performed impromptu surgery on Philosophy Guy many years ago (long story), we had to make a couple of attempts because we kept underestimating how hard we needed to press in order to get the scalpel to actually penetrate.

The paradox of the human body always fascinates me. Somehow it's vulnerable and fragile -- hit your head wrong, you could die! -- while simultaneously being a profoundly resilient structure. Animal bodies, too. Description of animal death )

Funny how we able-bodied sorts take our bodies so much for granted. They're just there most of the time, ticking away dependably-- until suddenly they're not.

(No, I don't have cancer, I have a fibroid! At least it's not in my uterus.)
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Ironically, lacking the ingredients for cake in a mug, I was forced to make actual chocolate muffins to satisfy my chocolate cake craving. They're pretty damn good, if I do say so myself, and you can't even tell they're vegan. (Come on, like I'm the only one who remains generally unconvinced by vegan baking. Though feel free to blow my mind with your recipes.)

1 cup self-raising flour
2T cocoa
5T castor sugar
1 cup (approx) chopped dark chocolate
2t whole flaxseed, ground and added to 1.5T water, stirred until goopy
160ml soy milk
1/4 cup oil

Combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix. Pour into greased muffin pan and cook for 20-25 minutes at 190C (375F). Makes six medium muffins, i.e. one for you, one for morning tea tomorrow, and a couple for your least hated colleagues. Recipe adapted from here.

Having moved to a land deprived of the ethical egg (the choices being imported cage eggs, or a 50% hit ratio on rotten egg when purchased from the local market), I've actually become quite the convert to flaxseed as an egg replacer. Also, you can just keep the seeds in a jar and grind them when you need them, which saves having eggs kicking around the fridge for yonks. Extra also, people can send you flaxseed by international mail. Free-range eggs, not so much.

The other thing on my mind tonight, besides the craving for chocolate baked goods, is the realisation that I just used the word 'blessed' in an LJ comment. As in, "I'm blessed because [xyz]." As an atheist, I'm usually fairly careful about trying to use secular terminology wherever possible. I've scolded The Boy for using 'sin' as a shorthand for 'deliberately causing harm', had epic arguments about whether or not 'good' and 'evil' actually have meaning in a secular context (The Boy studied computer science and I studied engineering, so we never had these arguments in university like the humanities kids), and (so far unsuccessfully) tried to ban Christmas entirely from our household.

I suppose what I was reaching for was the more unwieldy concept of 'good fortune without having done anything to particularly deserve it'. To me, the word 'blessed' implies a certain element of intentionality. I was chosen. Everything happens for a reason. I guess I think about it like this: when I look around, I can think of ways in which I'm more fortunate than pretty much everyone I see. Call it luck, call it privilege, whatever -- but what it doesn't mean is that I'm intrinsically more special in any way. I'm just a regular person chosen by the cosmic dice. But if I turn it around to thinking that I'm more blessed than everyone around me, suddenly it's no longer random. It's about me, an intrinsic quality of me. And... now I have no idea why I'm discussing semantics, when I started off talking about chocolate cake.


Speaking of good and evil, or perhaps merely of 'people whose lives have sucked more than my own', you should all now go away and read And then they came for me, a shudderingly affecting posthumous editorial by murdered Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga.

Say what you like about my government, at least it hasn't tried to hurt or injure or murder me.* Which, sadly, yet again makes me more fortunate than pretty much everyone in the world.

*Though it has, of course, hurt and injured and killed many, many others, and continues to do so.


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