Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Lump

I found a small, pebble-like lump in my breast a couple weeks ago. I waited to see if it would change with my cycle and when it didn't, I went to see a gynocologist.

While I expected her to dismiss it as nothing, fibrous tissue, don't worry, instead she told me that a mammogram, an ultrasound and probably a biopsy was in order.

My appointment with the radiologist was set for the end of the week. Until then, I was left to face the idea of my mortality. And not my mortality at eighty, as I'd planned, releasing my last joyous breath in a sunlit room laying next to my husband who would, miraculously, expire at the same moment. No, this was imminent mortality, skinny, bald, wrapped in my own universe of pain, no longer able to reach out to my children. My father died that way. I don't recommend it.

Ten years ago, I would have been mourning all I'd miss if I died young (the experience of children, a long life with Ben, whatever creative path I might take). Tragic, certainly. But now, getting this news now, it was all about making things okay for my kids. I was not afraid for myself. Pain, a withering body, a lost future, I can take it. Grief and loss for my children, no way.

Ben came home early the day of my ominous visit to the doctor. I met him in the driveway and told him, half joking, that he had to marry someone really nice. Because that's my greatest fear. That firstly, my illness and death would scar the kids irrevocably, make them adults before they've had a chance to be children. And secondly, and this is even bigger, that there won't be anyone to mother them properly. That someone coming into their life in that role might not fully understand them, appreciate them, love them or at any rate, not like I do.

As I was thinking this, it struck me that that's what Mihiretu's birth mother must have felt as she lay dying. She must have looked at her son toddling around her hut and grieved for him in advance. She would know that she would leave him and he would go out into the world unshepherded, unprotected, unloved. And I realized that I was the person, this secondary person, to take over for her, to try to love that little guy like my own. And I cried for them. For both of them. Maybe for all of us, for Mihiretu, for his birth mom, for Mae, for Lana, for me, for Ben. For anyone walking through the world feeling unprotected and unloved. And it left me feeling how strongly, how fervently, I need to love Mihiretu. I need to laser him with love even if he's trying to deflect it. I need to do it for her. I need to it for him. And I need to do it for me, both because I adore him but also because I need someone to step in if, god forbid, I had to leave this project part way through. We, hopefully, form a web, we humans, that can catch those that need catching, even if they don't share our blood.

Today, after making small talk with a technician while she performed my mammogram and ultrasound (yes, three-year-old boys are crazy, aren't they and five-year-old girls are precocious and I totally agree that Montessori is a great approach), Dr. Patel came in to do a bit of ultrasounding herself. Within thirty seconds she said, "There it is. Yep, it's a cyst. And from this angle, look, you can see the plugged duct. Nothing to worry about."

And just like that I was among the living again. I could return to Ben in the waiting room, who hugged me hard and did a little jig. I could return to my kids, hold their faces in my hands and look into their eyes only with delight, only with optimism, and not with that terrible dread that I would have to leave them sometime far too soon.

It has been a long four days. Days of being barely there, lost in our imagined, horrifying future. But here's the thing. Today was the most beautiful day. Yes, it was gorgeous, eighty-degrees, almost-spring but it was also a day that I could take big deep breaths and know exactly how lucky I am. To have the chance, the pleasure of raising these kids, these three divine, maddening, entirely unique beings. To be a part of this world, this web. At least for awhile.


  1. Whew. Very glad you're ok. Two years ago I went to the gyno on Valentines day. Note to self: don't go to gyno on Valentines day. She found a lump. Had to wait 6 torturous weeks to get mammogram. Ended up being nothing...

  2. I am incredibley happy that all is well. I do, however, think everyone in life should have a near death experience, it gives you a certain appreciation for what you have and what you could have.

  3. Beautiful post. I know this topic too well. Every time my wife goes to the doctor she has cancer for the 1 to 2 weeks following until after spending $$$ on tests and irradiating, poking, prodding and frightening the hell out of her we find out that she actually does not have cancer. Every time. I'm growing weary and cynical with the medical establishment. What if we appreciated what we had without the threat of losing it all and that lump was assumed to be a benign cyst until proven otherwise.