Comfort Food (Essay Finis)
One morning I woke up, brushed my hand over my chest, and felt a lump on my breast. It was a shock. Where did this come from? Could you grow lumps overnight? Maybe it would vanish as quickly as it came. But it was a persistent lump and after several fretful days, I decided I needed to check it out.
At the time I was living by myself during the week in a tiny apartment in the back corner of a rickety old house. It was the price I paid to go to school and get that final college degree. I loved learning, but I hated being lonely. Every night I called my husband.
“I don’t know. The lump fairy left it on my chest instead of under my pillow,” I told him. “I’ll call the doctor tomorrow. I’ll probably need a mammogram too.”
Of course the doctor was booked up for the entire week and I didn’t think I should schedule a diagnostic mammogram without her go-ahead. So I was stuck waiting—waiting and wondering and worrying. I checked my lump several times a day, testing to see if it had grown and if so, how much. I tucked a wooden ruler under my chin and tried to measure my lump. I was becoming attached to it. I even thought of a nickname: Bubby. I had a Bubby on one of my boobies.
Google had all the information I needed to know and some things I didn’t, about breast cancer and breast cancer treatment. During the day I’d convinced myself it was merely a cyst, nothing to worry about. But at 3 a.m. in the morning, my new wake-up time, I planned my funeral. I needed to find someone eloquent to read the poem Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant: “When thoughts of that last bitter hour come like a blight . . .”
Finally, I found myself sitting in a blue-flowered hospital gown on the edge of the examining table waiting for the radiologist’s verdict.
“It’s a spider bite,” she pronounced.
“What?” At first I wasn’t sure I heard right. “A spider bite?”
“Yes, or some other mildly venomous insect. You’ve had a reaction.”
My breast lump was a spider bite. I almost felt cheated. Then I thought about the old house I was living in while I went to school, the spider webs I saw in a couple of corners of the high ceiling. I’d chose to ignore them, fancifully believing if I couldn’t reach those spiders, they couldn’t reach me.
Walking down the tree-shaded street to my car after my doctor’s appointment, I felt so light and free—and thankful. I was one of the lucky ones. I whispered a prayer for all those battling breast cancer who weren’t so fortunate. I realized I was hungry, ravenous even. It felt so good to feel hungry again. There was a new restaurant in town I’d heard about, gourmet dining, called Doughty’s Bistro. I needed to reward myself, comfort myself after all this needless suffering. What would I order? I’d begin with a chicken satay appetizer and then for dessert, maybe a chocolate torte. I was already looking forward to licking the icing off the spoon.
2 thoughts on “Breast Lumps and Food”
Oh, my! So scary. I had a similar experience a few days after I got married. That was about 30 years ago. I remember the feeling of panic. I couldn’t stop crying. It turned out to be just a benign thing. Still even now, we women are terrified of being visited by this experience. I would love to be alive when a cure is finally found. Yes, all my praise and comfort to the women who’ve gone through the real thing.
It’d be interesting to know how many women have had breast cancer scares. I think there are a lot of us out there.