It was nothing. Well not nothing. But not that something that conjures up images of pink ribbons and mastectomies, as it does for so many millions - that is MILLIONS of people, men included.
This was not my first brush with the big C.
Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma (MFH), or to those in the know, Mother Fucker from Hell. The lump was near my knee and made it increasingly difficult to run, play tennis, or kick people. My doctor assured me it was just a varicose vein (though I had none to be seen.) A year later, he declared it was a benign fatty mass, and sent me to a surgeon to have it removed.
Fine. No problem. Done. Only, it was a problem, and suddenly my fine little life felt like it was being sucked down a drain. For the next year, I underwent another surgery and treatment, and then treatment for the treatment. But I pulled myself out of the drain, surviving it all, and just last year was told to go on my merry way with not thought to reoccurrence.
And that is just what I did: blithely go on my way never giving a serious thought to my mortality.
Then yesterday morning I woke with a lump in my breast. It was huge, and it hurt. If I had been smart, I would have known these are not signs of cancer. But I was not smart. I was alarmed. And once again, I felt that drain opening, and the whirlpool starting to pull.
I imagined tests, and more tests. Doctors, some sympathetic, some not so much. I imagined waiting rooms, People Magazine, fish tanks, Mozart, and that sick-sweet smell of hospitals: sweat, tears, alcohol and lilies. I got in the shower and imagined myself without my left breast. What would I feel like without my left breast? What would I think of myself? Would I be one of those strong fearless women who appear on calendars, a scar over their heart? If this lump is cancer, what will my priorities be? Will I continue to work on my book? Or, would I take up scrapbooking?
I got out of the shower, got dressed, went to Wilco to buy birdseed. It was a beautiful drive. The sun breaking through the dark gray sky to shine on the trees, the street, the lips of the rain wet rhododendrons. I had a lump in my chest, I did not know if I was okay, but at that moment, I felt caught up in something absolutely beautiful.
I got back home, cleaned the bird feeders, fed the birds then my son, then a friend called. She is a doctor. She said, if it hurts it’s not cancer. Cancer does not just bloom over night. "You are fine," she said.
And she was right.
I am fine. It was nothing. A cyst. I am lucky. I still have my home and my husband and my child and my work. I still have gardening to do, and friends to cook for, and time to do it. The drain did not open yesterday. But was good to be reminded it is there.
May 5, 2010