Musings on the Day I Was Told I Had Breast Cancer


On Election Day in 2012, as I stood in line at the Methodist Church with mostly conservatives (I can usually tell by their attire), I thought about other results over which I had no control.

At an appointment later that afternoon, I would finally know what total strangers had been privy to days before me  —  votes had been cast. I stepped into a dark booth and cast my own.

On the prior Thursday (while others were thinking of cake walks and bingo later that evening) a pathologist (“Cyclops” would have been a preferable name.) looked through a lens at monstrously-shaped cells with far too many nuclei. But they were insidiousness at its finest. Perhaps he shook his head and sighed before he called an assistant to confirm.

That made at least two who knew before I knew.

That afternoon the report traveled electronically to an office. In the office a faceless pony-tailed woman wearing clogs might have snuck a peek at the report after she printed it. Who can blame her? (Humans are morbidly curious.) The small twinge of pity would have evaporated after her second cup of coffee.

The report was placed in a plain yellowish folder tabbed with my name and came to rest in stack on a desk. Running late from morning rounds, the doctor glanced at the stack before heading to exam room three for his first appointment. Gallstones or an ulcer, first appointment would need tests.

That made almost four people who knew before I knew.

Voting made me late for work. But my “I voted” sticker was as good as a doctor’s note. No one noticed. (90 percent of lumps are benign.)

I worked on an application from North Carolina for a line leader position at a poultry processing plant while also trying to purchase a $15k single-wide mobile home. What would it be like to spend the day “processing” chickens  —  cold, pimply skin after skin, headless bodies with huge breasts and little wings? (I thought about the right wings in khaki pants.)

I called the doctor’s office and asked for my results over the phone. Put on hold, then a call back. The nurse said, “No, you have to come in to talk to the doctor, and your appointment is at 3:30 p.m.”

Another stranger had looked at my report. That made at least four people who knew before I knew.

My message to my brother: “They won’t tell me over the phone.”

His response: “Well, motherfucker.”

And then I knew.

This post was originally published on Medium.

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Photo by Lirisa Birta, via Unsplash


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