The Approximate Size of My Least Favorite Lump



WARNING: This is going to get PERSONAL



The most comforting words another human has ever said to me, I heard this past month. He said, “You’re fine.”

Or written formally, “Negative for Intraepithelial Lesion or Malignancy.” It’s not CANCER.

Every grown woman knows that she is supposed to have an ANNUAL medical exam. This ORDEAL will/ought to include a Pap Test and an Breast Exam. Every grown woman knows that this “event” SUCKS. It’s awkward and uncomfortable.

That being said, I managed to make my ANNUAL into a TRI-ANNUAL event this year. I haven’t been sick. I perform the requisite self-exam on my breasts. Well, not with any kind of regularity. And there it is. Three years between exams and no regularity in my own checks. That, in no small part, is how I wound up hearing the ugliest words another human has ever said to me. She said, “How long has this lump been here?”

Here? My left breast. How long? FUCK IF I KNOW.  Her question was followed with a series of “probable” scenarios.  It’s ‘probably’ going to be nothing. We could ‘probably’ just monitor it and see if there is any change. Then she stopped ‘probably-ing,’ sat down and said, ‘we’re not going to wait. We’re going to schedule a mammogram.’

What a charming experience a mammogram is! If, Ladies, you have not yet had the experience, just you wait! Forget the actual exam, the waiting roomS (yes, plural), the paperwork, the shared office space. Fantastic. First, there is the 8 day wait from ‘DISCOVERY’ to exam. What a person needs in this situation, without a doubt, is days on end to contemplate every possible scenario. If nothing else it allows ample time to castigate oneself for not having somehow gotten ahead of this curve.

Of course, Not EVERY lump is Cancer. However, damn near everything in the Breast Center at Memorial Hospital IS pink. Pink ribbons. Pink accents. Pink walls. I’ve never been real fond of the color in the first place and that coupled with the idea of a LUMP a LUMP in my chest PROBABLY-did NOT lend itself to easing my nerves while I waited. Luckily, I got to fill out paperwork while waiting. The usual familial history but, also, I got to run through the check list of items thought to indicate an ‘increased risk’ of cancer. Questions which include, have you NEVER been pregnant? Really? Whether or not I’ve been pregnant mitigates my odds on getting cancer? Yes. Yes, to that question and a whole slew of other that I would not have guessed at. If you are me (and obviously YOU are not) the highlight in filling out the paper work came when I got to calculate my 19 years as a smoker. 19 years. I can not recall when I have ever been staggered by the act of jotting down a number. 19 years as a smoker and whether or not you’ve a family history of cancer your odds have increased exponentially! Perfect.

Oh, AND the office shares space with The American Cancer Society. That’s right, suite 102 is the it’s ‘probably not Cancer’ waiting room and suite 102(A) is the in house offices of The American Cancer Society!  Again, Perfect.

 So, by the time I hit the second waiting room, aka -the strip and wait waiting room, I was about crawling out of my damn skin. THANK GOD for @thatkevinsmith (if you missed his tweet-a-thon then you also missed the laugh track to my is it or isn’t it cancer wait-a-thon) and my BFF (who, while not actually holding my hand, walked through the longest week of my life with me and allowed me to handle it as I saw fit. Thanks.)

Then there is the vice grip. That’s what a mammogram is a vice grip that they smash your breast into and then photograph x-ray style. It’s “mildly uncomfortable,” which is to say, that for just a few seconds, it HURTS LIKE HELL. Unless, you have no breast sensitivity in which case it may well be “mildly uncomfortable.”

The final element of the exam was an ultrasound. I won’t even pretend that i recognized a single blob on that screen. It may as well have been blank but it wasn’t. The tech explained nothing. She just took the photos, then left. The Dr. came in moments later, he had viewed the results of both exams at the viewing station (a location I never actually saw) and the first words out of his mouth, “You’re fine.” He has done this a time or two before. I can honestly tell you I didn’t care what his name was. I wasn’t interested in shaking his hand. I think I might have been convulsing with angst at the point. I know I was on the brink of screaming. I had long since started begging, in the form of prayer being uttered in my head. “You’re fine.”

I could end my share on this subject there but that would be a disservice to the ladies back in the waiting room. When I got back to the waiting room I WANTED to shout to my BFF, “It’s not cancer!”  There were, however, a couple of other women in the room. Women who presumably had lumps of their own. It seemed unkind to ‘gloat.’ It turns out though that the women I did not know turned as expectantly as my friend did to hear the results. The kindest expression of said results that I could think of was, “I don’t have to come back until I’m 40.” At which point women I had never met cheered.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


2 Responses

  1. Even though I just read, and re-read what you wrote, I still cannot even begin to fathom what you had to deal with with this, especially considering your young age. I have had family who have suffered through cancer, and my grandmother (and her mom as well) had a breast removed because of it, but me seeing others deal with it is nowhere near the same as having to deal with a “what if” situation yourself. I am soooo happy that everything turned out well for you in the end, and I am glad “you’re fine”.

  2. *applause* Very well put. ALL of it. And this:

    The kindest expression of said results that I could think of was, “I don’t have to come back until I’m 40.” At which point women I had never met cheered almost made me cry.

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