I Found a Lump; and other Dreaded Fears

I found a lump in my breast.

I discovered my invader while soaping in the shower six weeks ago.

It was the size of a pea and buried behind my left nipple.

My mind instantly went to the dark side.

I have cancer. I will die. My son will be an orphan. 

Losing a spouse fundamentally shifts your universe. And you become a little paranoid, I have discovered.

On May 24 at 9:30 p.m., I became a single mom. My five-year-old has one parent. And I have only one child. There’s no spare parent if something happens to me. And there’s no spare child if something happens to him.

Mike was diagnosed in June 2011. From that moment on I worried about him and put most every other concern on the back burner. I worried for four years. He died and I stopped worrying. . .about him.

Now it was all about my son and I. Our survival is now a must.

And my paranoia has gone super sonic. The lump didn’t help.

This vicious, life-abreviating alien has been sent to kill me and destroy my son’s life.

I raced to my doctor. She had a feel and ordered a mammogram. In the meantime, she told me not to worry, forget about it for now, and not to touch my breast again. I tried to follow orders.

So I waited for my appointment. Weeks later I sat in the waiting room surrounded by women facing the same fears I had, I’m sure. And that’s when I started to panic.

After my mammogram, I was pulled into a secondary room for an ultrasound. More panic. The doctor came in and took an inside look with her wand. She found nothing.

“This is healthy breast tissue,” she said.

“I’m sorry. I know I’m being paranoid about all of this but my husband just died of cancer,” I replied.

And then she gave me some advice that applies to everyone, regardless of your connection to cancer.

“It’s not being paranoid if you’re taking care of your health.”

It’s great advice, sure, but I don’t know how long I can follow it.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Some days, all the parking spots are close to the door, all the elevator doors open when the button is pushed, and all the brain scans are tumour-free.

And that was our December 23.

I still have tumours, in all the old familiar places, and there are plans to deal with them in 2015. However, most of my attention has been focussed on a recent MRI of my brain. On Tuesday, my doctor gave me the results. It’s called a “clear scan”, and it’s been awhile since I’ve had one of those. The disease off my brain is a load off my mind.

This means our Christmas can be about gratitude for the present and genuine hope for the future.

I can even picture conversing with Scrooge’s third ghost.

Merry Christmas everyone, from Robin, Will and myself.

Our dangerous nuts are in the candy

(Image by returntoorder.com)
(Image by returntoorder.com)

I get a little starstruck from meeting Americans. I mean, they’re at the centre of everything, including solipsism.

Whenever I cross the border, I hand my wife our camera, throw my arm around the first American I see and yell “Yankee Doodle Oprah Pop Tarts!”  They usually play along until I try to feed them peanuts.

After spending two weeks in California, I think the biggest difference between their nation and ours is the price of cheese. If we could get mozza that cheap, we would have an obesity epidemic too. (Even their landscape has a higher BMI.)

Culturally, Canada exists somewhere between Europe and the U.S. On the surface, Americans  seem closer to us. There’s the proximity, the common language, and the prevalence of their popular culture, best represented by the 24-hour availability of The Big Bang Theory. Europeans are closer when it comes to values: health care, accessible education, acknowledgement of curling as a sport, awareness of the existence of curling.

Who’s ruder? Europeans, hands down. Especially that old bitch on that train in Amsterdam. Who’s more confounding? Americans, because of the gun thing. (Thanks to Sandy Hook, we finally have an answer to the question: “How many children have to die before Americans are willing to even discuss firearms regulation?”… “More than 20.”)

There are qualities about Americans that I envy: their drive, friendliness and ambition. Then there are the characteristics I do not admire: again, the gun thing.

After two weeks in their midst, I am left with one question above all. Why does the richest, most powerful country in the world have such crappy candy bars?

Go into any corner store or gas station, and the same dozen mediocrities stare back at you. Almond Joy, Butter Finger, Milky Way. I mean, Baby Ruth? Canadians select from a cocoa cavalcade that is bigger, better and far more varied: Mr. Big, Crispy Crunch, Sweet Marie, Caramilk, Aero and the cavity-inducing magic of a Crunchie bar. It’s just a matter of time before someone comes out with Curling Crunch.

And don’t get me started on quality. Eat a Hershey Bar. Savour the waxy goodness. Now bite into anything bearing the word “Cadbury.” That’s chocolate good enough to kill for (but only using a knife or club—no waiting period).

Lastly, I just wish Americans would take a smidgeon of interest in our history and culture. We’re worth learning about. Oh well. Happy Third of July, America!