I could never have imagined that beautiful May afternoon would be the beginning.
“What’s this?” I think. I’m lying on my bed in my apartment, left arm above my head, a shot of anxiety-ridden adrenaline flowing through my veins. I feel a plain difference in my left breast compared to my right. There’s a ball-like formation that I can feel all the way around. It’s not attached to my chest, but is just floating there in the middle of my breast. I push all suggestions that it’s “a lump” out of my mind.
Three weeks later I think I have a yeast infection. I’ve never had one before, so I’m not sure. I make an appointment at the clinic in town. The doctor examines me. He tells me there’s no infection, but he feels the lump I was trying to ignore. “You need a mammogram – today.” He escorts me to radiology. After the mammogram, the radiologist looks at the films and talks in whispers to the doctor. I am informed that I need to see a surgeon – today. No one shows me the films. I wait in an exam room, shivering in the skimpy hospital gown. I feel out of control. I have been hustled from room to room with hardly any explanations. This whole afternoon is turning into one long nightmare. When I finally see the surgeon, he announces as he looks at my file, “I’m taking that lump out tomorrow morning.”
I walked into the clinic thinking I would walk out with a simple prescription. I walk out with a lumpectomy scheduled for 8:00 the next morning.
I’m angry, so angry, that I was never asked if I wanted to call someone, never given a chance to breathe, never given any choices. For the next couple of years, I swallow tears every time I drive past the clinic. It’s a small town and that street is hard to avoid.
I call my parents as soon as I get home, tears rolling down my face. They tell me; beg me; come home. They don’t wait for me; they come and get me instead.
My new surgeon gives me choices. My new surgeon gives me time to make some decisions. I decide to have a lumpectomy, and just get rid of the blasted lump. I’m only 27 years old. It couldn’t possibly be what I think it is, could it?
I’m lying on my back, left arm stretched straight out. The anesthesiologist makes sure my left breast is numb, while the surgeon picks out music. U2 OK? Sure. I’m reminded of watching St. Elsewhere, way back when. An older doctor would play classical music, while the young, hip doctor would listen to classic rock during surgery. Cool, I think, I’ve got a doctor that rocks. The nurse clips a sheet vertically between my head and my body. I can’t see much; the light blueness drapes down on my face and I feel claustrophobic. The nurse tries to hold the sheet away from my face when she’s not busy with other tasks. She constantly talks to me; reassures me. I feel tugging but no pain as the surgeon removes a growth that has formed where it shouldn’t have. The tugging seems to last an eternity. Finally it’s over. A call to the pathologist is made. I sense rather than see people conferring, hear something about clean margins. We’ll do a biopsy, but it looks like cancer.
Then the whole world shifted.
This was my response for this week’s prompt at The Red Dress Club to write a piece that begins with the line, “I could never have imagined” and ends with the line, “Then the whole world shifted.” There is a 600-word limit this week.