Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Lump in the Mashed Potatoes

A Lump in the Mashed Potatoes

By Cappy Hall Rearick

So I'm in the shower doing my 'when I think about it' breast exam and there it is: the lump I never thought would find its way into my upper body. Frigid blood drains from my brain and rushes down to my bunions. I stand there, water dripping off my belly, before I think to do the finger thing again and make sure I didn't screw up. After all, I could have grabbed some old fatty tissue languishing like Lana Turner on the Rivera of my boob.

So I soap up the second time more than I need to, and with two fingers working in tandem, slide and thump defiantly over the area in question. There it is. Just when I thought I might someday wear a bathing suit again.

I fly out of the shower like I'm the Concorde. Soapy water soaks into the new carpet while I grab the phone, dial my gynecologist and stutter out my need for an appointment. "Immediately, if not sooner," I say, and why.

Somehow I manage to get myself dressed, into the car and over the causeway to my favorite doctor (except when she puts my feet in the stirrups). She is a delightful woman, sunbeam bright and sweet as can be. She likes to tell me jokes so I'll be less uncomfortable while spread eagle in one of a lady's most vulnerable positions.

This day I am the one making with the funnies hoping she'll enjoy my jocularity. But while I'm telling her an off-color boob joke, her sincere gaze remains one of empathic concern. She gives me a slight smile. Normally, she laughs at my stories, showing off the fact that her teeth have NOT been bleached Moby Dick white.

Clearing her throat she says, "I think it's probably nothing, but let's get you to a surgeon for a second opinion. Jeanine will make an appointment for you."

Frigid Blood Rush Number Two captures what is left of my rational mind, so I leave the office craving some serious chocolate. Two super-size Crunchy Reese's Peanut Butter Bars should do it. Maybe even three, my obsessive brain shrieks.

Jeanine calls two days later to say I have an appointment with a surgeon whose name I have never even heard. Five fret-filled days away.

After thinking it through, I tell myself that Jeanine's call heralded good news. If my situation were about to demonstrate firsthand what the other side of the flowerbed feels like, they wouldn't make me wait five whole days.

Something else takes the edge off somewhat. My boob feels like a stubbed toe and Mr. Google says that pain is not usually a sign of a malignancy. I'm willing to go with that. Denial is my happy place.

But now the appointed day has arrived and I have done a good job of thinking about everything BUT my lumpy mashed potato. At this time I think I need to express the deep down, glacially cold fear that the "Big C" may have possibly taken up residence in one of my girls.

I don't understand how this could be happening. Nobody in my family has had breast cancer; I do the monthly exam thing occasionally. I grit my teeth and never scream when getting a mammogram, or what I consider to be modern medicine's answer to water boarding. I swallow daily vitamins and eat tons of cruciferous veggies. It makes no sense that cancer would be so audacious as to take up residence inside my boob when cauliflower and broccoli are my two best friends.

I am so pissed.

Yet I have a burning urgency to express my fright, my anger and my anxiety with someone who would be more willing to drown in a toilet bowl rather than offer me any form of a "there-there platitude." I need to share my anxiety with someone who makes me laugh off the more serious thought of "what if."

So I do the thing that usually works for me ... I write about it. I type furiously of feelings, fears, denial. Everything. It lets me think that this oversized tit zit could just be a wake-up call, and it also allows me to scoff at the notion that it might be worse.

I do it because if I cannot be absolutely honest with myself when I write, I might as well start looking inside a toilet bowl for my new best friend!

Post Script:

I wrote this piece for a humor writing class I was to teach: "How to Write Humor With a Straight Face." While the lump was very real and scary, it turned out to be the wakeup call I had hoped it would be. Something had to hit me in the head for me to realize the importance of those monthly breast exams. As for the class, it worked well to show the students how to inject lines of humor when writing something as serious as cancer.

Cappy Hall Rearick


Review of Cappy's newest book - "Return to Rocky Bottom" will be up at the Dew on May 20th.