Did you know that when doctors and technicians at cancer-screening facilities talk about lumps, they divide the breast into 12 sections and refer to each area as a different time on a clock?
My possible "lump" (though my doctor never called it that) was discovered last Friday on my left breast at the 1 'o clock position.
I'd always liked that time of day, just after lunch (sliced turkey and Swiss, a handful of Tim's potato chips, a dill pickle . . ), or possibly just before, when the rumbling's begun and lunch is what I'm looking forward to (shall I have the leftover lasagna or a bowl of clam chowder?).
But 1 o'clock was suddenly something different.
The hardest part about a mammogram is not being able to breathe. I found it almost impossible to hold my breath, even for a few seconds.
Oh, and having to wait in a little room all by yourself while the technician shows the images to a radiologist. I didn't want to worry, so I sat there making a list of all the reasons I might and might not have cancer until I heard a knock and saw her smile.
But let's do an ultrasound just in case, so now the radiologist going over and over 1 o' clock with his gooky wand. After about three minutes, I say "so, you're not finding anything?" And he says "but she said there was a lump," and I say, "Well, actually, she didn't say there was a lump. She said she felt something and she wasn't sure . . . so just to be safe . . .". Finally, after taking a few photos: "Well, that was a whole lot of nothing." I feel like crying, but then I start to laugh. "Here, take this towel and wipe off your breast--you're free to go." Then, "negative. All negative," he says.
Since last Friday I've been thinking of Kelli Russell Agodon's book Geography. If you haven't read it, you should. Here's a poem from it:
Kelli Russell Agodon
I turn the radio off
and hear heartbeats in the wipers.
Has this always been here?
The weather has turned to showers
and I imagine cancer as a cloud—
reaching down, trying to blend
its threadlike veins growing.
You're so young. I'm sure it's nothing.
At certain places
I lose track of sky and hill,
notice the fog between the conifers,
feel its long thin fingers
slipping through window cracks.
Let's just run a few tests.
There are prayers in each raindrop,
glass beads blessing the countryside.
Instead, I think of winter
and its snowstorms, how ice
can snap power lines,
bring a city into darkness.
You do have a family history of it.
Maybe if it wasn't October,
the mail wouldn't arrive
with a line-drawn woman in the right corner
dressed in bright colors, arm above her head
whispering, it might be you.