February 20, 2009
This was no ordinary lump. I know ordinary. Ordinary is the lump I have in my right breast. I found it ten years ago. It too was examined but found to be a fibroadenoma. Harmless. Oval. Slippery. Rubbery. Almost friendly. The old lump is everything the new lump is not. The new lump is hard. Ragged. Fixed in place. The new lump feels like a shard of glass under the skin. Like a piece of emotional shrapnel that exploded out of my heart and slowly worked its way to the surface.
The doctors tell me it’s been there for eight to ten years. I try not to think about it but I do. What was I doing on that day ten years ago when the first cell went awry? Was I stressed? Did I have an argument with my father? Did I eat a pesticide-laden salad? Drink contaminated water? Breathe too much exhaust? I can’t help but wonder what weakness in my body invited this anomaly.
Ten years ago I was 28 years old. That’s the year I met Mary, quit my job, started freelancing. That’s the year I started feeling like I might know what I wanted in life. But, around that same time, something hatched.
When I think of the tumor, my mind sometimes wanders to the sacks of spider eggs in our basement. We have a basement typical of the Midwest–draped with gooey, wispy webs. Marking the center of each is a sack of eggs. Inside each sack are hundreds of baby spiders. I beg Mary to vacuum them up before they hatch, but she doesn’t want to. Who can blame her?
When I found out my tumor was invasive, I pictured one of those sacks. Ever growing. Pulsating with the life inside. At what point did the sack split open and the first miniature spiders march out? No doubt they sought light, air, food, new environs to set up their spider shops. Is my tumor the same way?
For ten years it’s been growing, hidden beyond the reach of my inquisitive fingers. Then, one day, a seam opened up and tumor cells went on the march. Each offspring seeking it’s own little corner of my body to set up housekeeping. How far have my spider babies traveled? What is their final destination? How can I get rid of them? It won’t be as easy as vacuuming. Of that I am sure.