What If I Have Breast Cancer

About 10 months after giving birth to my daughter, Naomi, I discovered a lump in my right breast. The lump was hard and painful—a scary size that kept me sleepless for a few nights. It was in the same breast that my mother had Stage 3 breast cancer. I knew I had to see a doctor but part of me didn’t want to see anyone or know the truth about the lump in my breast. What if I had breast cancer?

All sorts of crazy thoughts raced through my mind. In a matter of minutes I had already buried myself and worried about caretakers for my husband and daughter. I worried about who would see my unfinished poems and writings and what people would say. I worried if I had done enough in my life to be at peace with leaving it all behind.
“Let me see,” my husband said. Although we had made a baby together I was scared to be vulnerable in this way. He gave me the I’ve-seen-what-you-got-look. My husband had also seen his mother pass from breast cancer and there I was a potential candidate for the “Big C” (as my mother called it). “Kelly, go to the doctor,” he said.

I scheduled an appointment. The woman on the phone told me I was not old enough yet to have a mammogram and that I should see my primary doctor. She referred me to the breast cancer center after a brief examination.

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The day of the appointment I parked as far as I could from the building. I needed to walk off nerves. I needed the fresh air. I walked into a dimly brown lit lobby which I guess was supposed to be soothing. It wasn’t. All the ladies in the lobby looked much older than me. When I saw others looking at me, they quickly looked away. I sat with the medical history form. One question: Do you have any relatives with breast cancer? Circle Yes/No. If yes, write name and the year.

Ann R. Harris – 2003.
I sat there thinking about how many women would leave weeping, how many would be relieved.The waiting seemed like a lifetime.
“Kelly?” the nurse called.
I wasn’t sure if she meant me but if she did I wanted to get it over.
“Your social, please?”
“Follow me.”
She took me to a locker room and handed me a robe and a key. There were pictures of breasts, health tips, cancer diagrams—information overload—on the wall
I locked my locker and waited to be called, again.
Finally, a doctor examined me. She was sure it wasn’t breast cancer, but not sure what to make of the lump. She called in another doctor: 4 eyes on 1 breast. I looked straight ahead into the light imagining myself as some actor in death

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Excerpt of medical form I had to complete

“Are you breast feeding?” one doctor asks.
“Not anymore. I recently stopped” I said.
The doctor asked me to lift my arm while she pushed in a circular motion with her fingers on my breast. She repeated the same action on my left breast.
“Does it hurt when I press?” the doctor asked.

“A little,” I said.
How have you been feeling generally?
OK. Tired. Occasional headaches.
After intense examination, I was told I had a breast-feeding complication called Mastitis.
Apparently there was milk blocked in my breast that had gotten infected and created a lump.
I was going to live. It wasn’t breast cancer.
Our bodies and life can shocked us.

For a few days my world felt upside down. I was scared for my life, my future.
I didn’t have a deadly diagnosis, but since then I don’t need the closest parking space or perfection to be grateful for life.

Kelly Harris is the founder and Editor of BrassyBrown.com. She’s a poet and the owner of KHD Communications LLC. Contact her at brassybrown@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram: @BrassyBrownnola

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