Last Friday morning in the shower, in the middle of rinsing off the lather from Shanna's left-behind Japanese cucumber body wash, I discovered a lump on my left breast, hovering beneath the surface. A decidedly there lump, nothing ambiguous or ill-defined, but smooth and firm and unarguable, surrounded as it was by pale, soft flesh.
Much to my consternation and dismay I found myself falling into something approximating shock, convinced in that moment that not only had I been found out, found guilty (of what, exactly, I do not know - a certain well-documented fatalism, perhaps, abruptly rendered asunder?), and sentenced to a slow & painful death, but also that I would suffer through it alone. And for two days I hovered in a circle of -- not panic, though panic certainly broke through in moments, but aloneness, hours of silence and solitude interjected with sudden outbursts of attempted connection: a Gmail chat with Marti during quiet moments at work on Friday; a phone message left for my Ari-love Saturday afternoon; an all-encompassing Dave hug that evening in the pitch-black hold of a rusted-out ship as I cried into the front of his T-shirt; a calmer, more rational exchange with Andrew & Chris later that night in a cab ("When did you first notice it?," "Is there a history of breast cancer in your family?"); and finally breakfast in a Hell's Kitchen coffee shop with Chris Sunday morning (cappuccinos -- mine hot, his iced; a corn & maple syrup muffin, a blueberry muffin, a scone, an unread newspaper), and an awkward but heartfelt offer to accompany me to the doctor, followed quickly by talk of possible Christmas plans.
And then a quiet Sunday at home making soup, brushing the Llama-monster, doing laundry. Followed by a joyful Monday morning moment of realizing that the lump, this frightening, body betraying, soul invading lump, was smaller than it had been the night before, that fingers had to press more forcefully into soft, pale flesh to discern its presence.
After these days of living somehow outside of my body, of feeling disconnected, severed, from my physical self, it has taken a little while to fully breathe again. But what amazes me (with a little distance, a little space, between me and this initial discovery) is not so much the abject loneliness that felt so overwhelming at first, but rather the trajectory of reconnection with the rest of my world, the part of my world that holds and carries the people who love me, the people I hold dear.
First the computer confession holding emotion at bay. Then the message left for Arielle giving voice to fear without anyone actually listening, a one-sided exchange of near- (if momentary) hysteria. And then Dave, who could tell when I arrived at the bar that night that something wasn't right, asking immediately, "Ca va," and then again later, more insistently, "Ca va?" And finally, Chris and Andrew, a taxi ride to their apartment, a late night feast of apples and tomatoes and goat cheese, a tooth brush kept in their bathroom just for me, kisses on the cheek and hugs good night.
So here I am, practically lump-free, breathing in this almost-autumn air with a quiet pleasure that is hard to describe. And I will call Dr. L tomorrow and set up an appointment, get checked out, just to be sure of things, to be sure again that things are alright.