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

  1. 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.

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