I felt it a long while back, a small lump in my left breast, the size of a lima bean, but it wasn't always there. Sometimes it hid. I noted it and then forgot about it. Repeatedly. I have been avoiding getting another mammogram since the one I had about a decade ago. They saw something then as well and then biopsied it. It turned out to be nothing. I knew, however, that I had to follow up and I didn't until last Thursday.
I am brilliant at denial, evasion and distraction. If I could parlay these qualities into cash, I would be wealthier than Warren Buffet. Lately, however, after my most recent birthday and some new professional milestones, I realized that I needed to start taking control of my own well being no matter how scary it was.
Stamford Hospital near where I live has a mobile mammogram unit that travels to various locations and offers women the test. Last Thursday it parked right outside my classroom window. At the end of the class, I walked out the door, straight into the bus and said, “I need to have a mammogram.” It was that easy and within 15 minutes, I was tested and released. They said they would call me the next day if I needed further testing.
As it was happening I looked at the x-ray of my breasts and of course did not understand what I was looking at. I saw a great deal of white. The technician explained to me that white matter on an x-ray indicates dense tissue and that black indicates fat. I did not mention the lump I had felt on and off for two years, though I knew I should have. I'm not sure why I remained silent on that. Maybe because I really only felt it at certain times of the month. Or maybe because saying it out loud would make it real. She asked me about my family history and even sharing that was frightening. Saying out loud, “yes, my half sister was diagnosed ___years ago. Yes, two paternal aunts, one deceased, one survived…” made it all too real. As I got dressed, I closed my eyes and thought, I hope if there is anything wrong that my cowardice did not make it worse.
I knew that there would be a call the next day. I knew they would see what I felt and that they would want to make sure. The nurse's voice was very calm and neutral, “We have identified a mass in the anterior of your left breast at 6 o'clock…”. She did not say suspicious, which is good I suppose. The word, “mass” however was terrifying. I could not put that aside, no matter how hard I tried. This was on a Friday and I had a busy weekend planned, with someone I had not seen in a long time. I wanted to focus on him and enjoy myself, but it was always there, that word “mass”, niggling at me.
It's true what they say, once you are faced with your own mortality, you do stop and evaluate your life. I'm not too thrilled about many things, many choices I made. My follow up test is today, in about 4 hours, and I am trying to remain positive. I lay in bed early this morning and thought about what I have left to do, and the person I love the most, my son. He still needs me, even though he refuses to admit it. Most likely it will be ok. In fact, the majority of cases are deemed to be normal, but there is still that small chance that it's not ok and so I am wondering very seriously about my life. Though, I have to say, no quick silver revelations are happening. Whenever I panic I start bargaining with God: if You give me this, I will give You that. It's ludicrous really because God is in want of nothing, needs nothing, especially from me. How funny Allah must think I am, with all my, “I'll be a better person if you fix my lumpen boob” nonsense.
My friend Rachel has moved around all her meetings to take me to the hospital this afternoon and hold my hand. She's been there; she knows first hand how frightened I am. I am so lucky to have the friends I do. All I know is that regardless of the result, I will heartily attempt to make the changes in my life that need to be made. I will try and be of more service and I will not allow my fears to prevent me from my happiness. No matter the result, I will not waste any more time on things and people who do not serve my well being, I will excise the toxicity in my life—most of it due to my choices. I will remain in gratitude…no matter the result. Life does not have to be hard.
Life does not have to be daunting. Yet, I am quite daunted by this latest wrinkle. Every pang, every twinge, and I am convinced, this is it! The big one! I'm going down! Maintaining calm is a challenge and has never been my forte, except in a crisis so I am hoping my theatrical reactions indicate this is not a big one. To my friends, thank you for loving me. To my enemies, please kiss my derriere, unless the results indicate a longer life, in which case, please remember forgiveness is divine.