Cause of ambivalence: My boobs.
"Dear boobs, I love how you fill out a dress, I hate that you could be a ticking time bomb on my chest. AY❤"
In a pile of melons at the market.
It was a Thursday evening, I was watching Veronica Mars on Netflix, I must've had a cramp or an itch on my right breast, because that's when I first noticed lump. After that, I spent hours fondling lump, trying to remember if he had always been there, trying to figure out if I should panic.
For the next few days, lump and I coexisted. I took him out with me. I wore my best cleavage enhancing dress, just in case my cleavage days were numbered.
On a Saturday, lump and I went to a clinic. We sat in the waiting room trying to read the 5th Game of Thrones book. When a character named lump was introduced, I closed the book. A woman across the waiting room was leaning her head against a wooden box fixed to the wall, seemingly unaware that people kept depositing urine samples into her head rest.
Eventually lump and I were called into the doctor's office. We sat there alone for a long time, staring at the water stains on the ceiling, fighting the urge to yell: "My wallet's gone! My wallet's gone" like Morty Seinfeld.
The doctor was nice. I pointed out lump to him. It wasn't until the doctor confirmed that lump was actually there that I started to panic. He told me that lump was probably nothing, but he was also something. Something was enough to make me panic.
The panic started in my eyes, I cried a little, then I got angry at an unanswered phone call, then I biked for 10 minutes in the wrong direction, then I drank too much apple juice, then I got angry again, then I cried like a baby while cleaning my office and then I called my mom. She told me not to panic.
I wondered why lump decided to pick the right boob, when there is so much more room in the left one. I was instructed to make an appointment for a sonogram on Monday. As I waited for Monday, I went back to watching Veronica Mars.
On Monday I called the radiology clinic, and was given an appointment 11 days later. 11 days is a long time to wait when you’re lugging around a lump.
I debated whether to tell my brother and my dad, but I was unsure of how to talk to them about my right breast without making them uncomfortable. The next day was my dad’s birthday, so I decided to wait; no one wants a lump spoiling the party.
I caught a man staring at my chest. I wanted to say: "did you know there's a lump in there?" But I didn't, because the more people I tell, the more real lump becomes.
The day of the test, I drove to the clinic in a torrential rainstorm, I had a meltdown in the car and I arrived at my appointment soaking-wet.
The first doctor told me I needed a sonogram, the nurse on the phone told me I needed a mammogram too, the nurse in the waiting room wasn’t sure because mammograms aren’t as conclusive on younger breasts. I wanted certainty, they were confused, I was annoyed.
I sat in the waiting room with a dozen much older women. We all wore the same backless teal gowns, we were all ushered into the same dimly lit rooms, and we all waited, starting at the ceiling, listening to elevator music. I felt like I was waiting for a bikini wax, except I was more nervous and I was allowed to keep my pants on.
I think the nurse could sense my fear because she assured me that the doctor was very nice. I wanted to tell her that I didn’t care about the doctor, and that I was much more worried about this lump in my breast, but instead I said thanks and kept staring at the ceiling.
The doctor was not nice he was just busy. He came into the room, asked me where lump was, put some cold gel on my breast then scanned it silently while staring at a screen. Then all he said was: “does it hurt” and “It’s nothing to worry about, just a cyst.” and got up and started to leave the room. I caught him in the doorway and made him explain to me what a cyst was, I asked him why it was there, I made him tell me a few more times that it was nothing to worry about, then I asked him three more times if he was sure. He seemed a bit annoyed, but I needed certainty.
My partner was waiting in the lobby; I gave him the thumbs up then ran out of the clinic before they changed their minds. I cried in the elevator then I felt silly. Of course it was nothing, I am young, healthy and there is no history of angry lumps in my family. I spent the rest of the day feeling like a drama queen.
Weeks and months went by. Until, during a daily peruse of my facebook feed, I saw the status that could have been mine. An ex-coworker, an out of touch friend, who is young (younger than me) healthy, with no family history of cancer, someone similar to me in so many ways, who found a lump sort of like mine, except hers was bad. I wanted to tell her that I knew what she was going through, but I didn’t. I just knew what it felt like to be afraid; I didn’t know what it felt like to have your fears confirmed. Instead, I sent her my best version of “if there is anything you need…” , then donated to a charity drive for her, then felt sad, relieved, ashamed and helpless all at once (it could have been me).
Often, I hate my body because of how it looks on the outside. This was the first time I hated my body for what could have happened on the inside. This was the first time my body actually scared me. I was scared enough to get lump checked out. In a way, my fear was an act of self-love. I guess love and fear are always a little intertwined.
Every once in a while I check for lump. I always find him in the same place, feeling both familiar and foreign, comforting and threatening, the thing that could have been a thing but wasn’t. My fear and my love nestled into a cyst, living in the top left corner of my right breast.