It was autumn, 1997. I was forty-five years old. I had just returned from a fitness class. No one else was home that afternoon. My husband — we’ll call him Seth — was at the office. My eldest, Jeremy, 23, was away, working in Switzerland. Simon, 18, was away at school. Tania, 12, was at school locally. I took a shower.
As I let the hot water massage away the tension, I stopped, freeze-frame. There was a lump in my right breast, just below the nipple.
I washed the soap off my legs and feet and went back to it. Still there.
It was still there, too, when I put my bra on: a lump about the size of a plum. The lump of panic in my throat was the same size.
‘We’ll just take a peak,’ the consultant said and slotted me in for day surgery.
His hand-out said I might feel groggy afterwards. I shouldn’t drive or take any major decisions for twenty-four hours. But I lay in the hospital bed afterwards, feeling fine, a little light-headed, maybe.
My consultant came in. ‘Mind if I sit on the bed?’
I hoisted myself onto my elbows and nodded, pleased. I’d had him down as stuffy and here he was being chummy.
‘We have the results of the frozen section,’ he said.
‘Oh, yes?’ I hadn’t expected to know today.
‘I’m afraid the lump is cancerous.’
Seth and I exchanged looks.
‘The normal treatment is mastectomy,’ he continued.
I found my voice. ‘That’s ludicrous!’
Later, as I waited for Seth to bring the car round to the front entrance of the clinic, I watched rooks flocking to a great, wizened oak, its leaves streaked with orange. High above me in the blue sky was a plane the size of a fly, with a long, white tail.
How come the world hadn’t stopped?
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Genre – Faith Memoir
Rating – PG
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