The terror returns as I find a lump
This lump, this bump, what the F, it is back. A week ago I found a pea-sized lump above the left breast, and at first thought I’d imagined it, but no I wake up and there it is at 11 o’clock in the fuzzy boundary between breast tissue and connective tissue.
I’ve been there before, this land called fear and anxiety, absolute terror, lonely because you need to fight it alone.
Your breath gets knocked out of you and your head spins. You feel it and ask yourself is this just another newly discovered part of my body, only to find out that it’s not on the other side.
You go to sleep hoping that it’s imagined only to wake up and accept that this is reality.
There are only so many times that you can confirm and reconfirm reality. You must face the music. These are the cards that you were dealt.
I reached out to the Pink Lovelies (the group of breast cancer survivors on Facebook), who gave me virtual hugs and blessings, I turned to the fiancée who is prepared to make an emergency trip out, and then I went into action.
Cancer and illness sharpens the focus on life. In a flash the worries about schoolwork, deadlines for projects, and sadly even the impending wedding disappears. This is a matter of life and death.
I spent a morning dialing the insurance company making sure that I’ll still be covered, I call the oncologists office and tell them about this freshly discovered lump and, please oh please, move the appointment earlier, and they do so.
I reach out to a young woman my breast cancer mentor and buddy, who says she will accompany me.
Amidst the action is the managing the washing machine of thoughts and mostly fears. Poor me, pity me, why me.
There is the unknown about the god awful disease, can a tumour sprout up seemingly overnight? Has it spread to other places? And if so, it’s odd that I continue to eat like a horse and maintain the same weight.
I become a Google monkey searching early symptoms of cancer, percentages of recurring cancer, and I know based on experience that a returnee lump means that the breast will have to go and chemo is on the horizon. But I love my thick hair.
You think 'this really isn’t fair, at 38, I just wanted to focus on planning my summer wedding, not anxious and fretting about disease, treatment, being the centre of a pity party'.
The father asked what is the worst that we fear, and what is the worst that can happen? Death he said. Not simply death, I said. I feared an untimely, early, painful death, where you are in the spotlight and watching the audience sob and put on a brave face.
“I’m worried about you,” the fiancée says. “Who thinks and talks like this?”
But as a freshly minted breast cancer survivor the disease and its now impending return is either on the backdrop or the forefront of my mind and life.
When illness returns there is a sense of emergency and urgency I can only describe to those who haven’t been there as the feeling of being held hostage, the infiltration of a bad guy, a terrorist.
I am mostly angry at the disease now: why is there not yet a cure despite the universal and widespread popularity of the pink ribbon campaign?
How dare it take so many of the lives of fellow women, and how dare it return so soon.