There is a lump in my breast.
I’m frozen in the bathroom in post-shower nudity. For some reason I can’t even grab the towel in front of me and water is dripping noisily against the ceramic.
“YOU’RE GOING TO DIE.”
I swallow hard. I can feel my pulse running so quickly and high that it’s become a throaty tremolo.
“Don’t be a drama queen. It’s your cyst. You’ve had a cyst since you were 15. You’re not going to die…even though this feels totally different.…”
I’m still sopping wet, rooted to the spot, and now chattering. My brain leads me through comforting logistics. Grab your towel. Dry off. Put your shirt on. Brush your teeth. I follow the commands, and then blindly go into the bedroom and pick up my phone. My fingers dial a number.
“I need to see the doctor…yes…. there’s a lump.. left breast…tender…expressing fluids on its own…tomorrow? Really? So soon? Ok.. see you then…”
I hang up.
I’m Brenda Walsh.
Yes. Brenda Walsh, Aaron Spelling, 90210.
My brain stutters over the fact of the lump, and recalls the episode simultaneously. All of a sudden I’m flooded with images of Dylan looking shocked and aghast, trying to explain why he hadn’t noticed anything when they were fooling around.
That part always totally embarrassed me for some reason.
Oh crap. There is a lump in my breast.
Now REM’s Losing My Religion has somehow slinked its way into the moment, but thankfully my 3-year-old bursts through the door and I get yanked out of my bizarre sitcom coping mechanism to focus back on the other zillion things I have left to do before lunch.
The next day I go through the motions of getting ready and head to my appointment with a close friend.
“So basically you’re going to go and get felt up. Awesome.”
I shoot him a look of disdain before I surrender a grudging giggle.
At the doctor’s the vibe is the same that it always is and this pleasantly surprises me. There is no minor 7th strumming or morose piano soundtrack in my head either. Ok. So far so good. One step at a time.
We review my health history, family history, and my breast history.
Have I noticed any puckering, soreness, redness, itching?
Is it one breast or both?
Have I noticed any fluids expressing and from where?
Have I been breastfeeding?
When did I stop?
When was my last period?
These are typical questions and I’m answering them the best I can. I don’t know what the ‘right’ answers are though. It briefly occurs to me that doctors would make excellent poker players. I haven’t been able to read her face or reactions at all.
“So I’m just going to do a quick check…my hands might be cold.”
They are. But they’re also smooth and dry. I briefly think about being ‘felt up’ and have to suppress a juvenile smirk.
Then, all of a sudden, I’m holding a requisition for an ultrasound and reading her elegant scrawl.
“Report small mass in left breast. Under nipple. Lower part of breast. Fibrocystic tissue.”
I really didn’t want to see that.
By the time I finally go to the ultrasound, the lump has consumed my every waking thought.
I’m strangely superstitious. I haven’t talked about it with anyone except for 4 of my friends. Weirdly, it’s reminding me of those first few well-guarded weeks of pregnancy where it feels like somehow silence can shelter you from any harm or miscarriage. Or in this case, cancer.
I think about expanding my support base, but then realize I can’t deal with any more attention or questions.
Also, it’s going to be nothing. Right?