Every young(ish) mother – make that every mother – fears ‘the lump.’ I need not define it further. We see the women in the grocery store donning head-scarves, wigs, and hats. We each think, “There but for the grace of God go I.” The fear paralyzes. It holds our hands away and delays mammograms. Once the fear of knowing succumbs to the fear of ignorance, we go. Then comes the horror of another unknown. The lump that might be nothing, but might not. Suddenly, every PSA reminds you of the cluster of cells you wait upon in hope they will disappear without a trace while leaving you a fragment of your sanity.
While you wait the world seems to stop. Why plan ahead? The outcome will determine everything you do. Scenarios spin through your shaking psyche. The things you should or should not do; the things you should or should not have done. The universe explodes as if trying to flee your reach and simultaneously implodes upon your shrinking self – now minimized to a spot on an ultrasound screen. Ironically, the image reminds you of that first ultrasound of your womb containing a similarly tiny yet all-encompassing cluster of cells. How can the system that brought your life meaning now turn against you? Did you show it too little respect?
As you stare fear in the face, faces are all you can see. The faces belonging to those tiny clusters now grown into fully sentient beings at the center of your exploding/imploding universe. That ultrasound image doesn’t look too different from Munch’s swirling sky with the unwelcome mouth gaping within it. You do not want to wear the face of fear; nor do you want your children to live in its shadow.
My lump was benign, but I still shake in my joy as I did in my terror. My children have no idea why I have hugged them extra hard these last few days and weeks. I dodged a bullet. I did not have to face my worst fear, but the fact I could not fathom the path forward had I confronted what so many others face leaves me feeling somehow less.
There but for the grace of God go I.