a word you hope to only use in benign situations,
also known as the situations that are figurative in nature,
or ones that are devoid of the possibility of cancer.
nearly three months ago, i felt a lump in my breast.
it began with 30 days of ‘it will probably go away’ and ‘it’s fine’
but when it didn’t and it wasn’t, my mind channeled catastrophe mode.
i finally worked up the courage to tell just one person.
feeling a change was just a feeling
it wasn’t quite real until, i shared
jesse. my betrothed.
‘feel this’ i urged.
it will be difficult to forget the look of concern on his face,
the stern tone of his voice, the seriousness.
the twenty-four hours between sharing and seeing a doctor were excruciating. jesse was as supportive as he could be, but there was something missing from his care… he wasn’t a woman.
i needed to tell a woman that wasn’t my mother, i needed to take off my strong face and be scared. lumps aren’t diabetes. cancer isn’t diabetes. other sicknesses aren’t diabetes, but i couldn’t imagine anyone better to call than a trusted friend in the diabetes community.
and i had to, i couldn’t do this alone. my fear was too big and growing.
i reached out and open caring arms greeted me.
in retrospect, i feel very lucky to have been seen so quickly.
my lady doctor checked me out the next day and made a joke about co-morbidity (which i am afflicted with) that made me really laugh. she treated me with the perfect doses of funny and serious, offering the information i needed without any the doom and gloom i’d already been feeling.
a 5cm mass. moveable. the second part was good news.
i’d have preferred to not have the first at all (obvi), but, as it goes…
a history of breast cancer in the family was enough to get me seen by a radiologist promptly the following morning.
i called my mother right after the appointment with my strong face on. ‘it is likely nothing’ i paraphrased. the mammogram and ultrasound are ‘just in case’ things.
i was terrified. stuck in the swamp of memories from when i was eleven and just pre-diagnosis…
‘you’re probably losing weight because you are growing’
‘you probably have no energy because you aren’t eating enough’
‘the weight loss might be explained by an eating disorder’
‘fatigue is normal at this age’
but that time…
it was something
and living through misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis left me skeptical of disease identification in unlikely individuals.
i went in to the mammogram with the mantra, ‘even if it’s something, it’s okay.’
the radiologist didn’t even feel a need to see me, just gave me the green light to go home.
i never heard the word benign, because it couldn’t possibly be anything else.
‘benign’ was irrelevant.
i should have been thrilled.
i walked out, unsatisfied
wanting a second opinion.
i haven’t gotten one yet, and the mass is still here.
taking up residence in a place it barely fits.
begging for attention by lumping around.
i catch myself feeling for it every morning and afternoon and night,
hoping tirelessly that this time is will just. be. gone.
i’m still terrified,
still untrusting of the very medical system that prescribes me the medicine i need to survive.
i’m still having my friends feel it, so that they know what to look for when the self-inspect.
i’m beginning to understand the importance of checking myself regularly.
BUT, this video makes it better.
thank you renza, for bravely writing about this tough subject and helping me find the courage to share my own experience.
if you find something when you self-check, you are bound to experience a slue of feelings and overwhelmed and terror will be two of them. my advice to you, is TELL SOMEONE YOU TRUST. doing that alone is exhausting and horrible and you deserve support. go get some. right now.
as a final note,
to the man at the bar who said, “breast cancer is barely a threat anymore, it is basically like a free boob job,’ i say to you…
‘thanks for the generous tip, but you’re an asshole. now, get the hell out of my bar.’