Archive for February, 2012

Lump: The Attempted Assassination by Her Right Breast by Riley Brown

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

My family’s new normal: No cancer. A year ago this was not the case.  Let me tell you, it has been one hell of a roller coaster ride. It feels glorious to be getting off.  I will never forget the night my family boarded, about to be taken on the ride of our lives.

A standard night at the Brown’s house: Dinner together finished an hour ago.  Everybody has dispersed. My brother and I are in the garage playing video games (as usual) when my mother called all of us into the living room. This was pretty typical of her when she wanted us to help clean up a mess – one that I probably contributed to.  She would lecture, we would clean, and then all of us would watch Family Guy together, filling the room with inappropriate discussion and laughter.

But tonight the laughter was gone. There was no color; the walls turned gray and bleak like an old soviet government building. My mom’s breast took center stage.

 “I found a lump in my breast,” she said.  

Those words penetrated the air and created a silence I had never heard before, so loud I could hardly breathe. I became transfixed on the green coffee table and rug (they had been in our living room for years, maybe I stared for a sense of comfort and familiarity) and thought to myself over and over again “please be benign, please.”

There is nothing else I remember from that day:  not what we had for dinner, not the weather conditions, nor if I had to go into work.  Nothing else held nearly the same importance or urgency as my mom and her well being. It cannot be cancer.  We could not lose her.

The next week, my mom got the results of her biopsy.  Sitting in the living room, “I know my mom is cancer free, there is no way she could have cancer,” was on repeat in my head.

I do not remember my mom’s exact words, but whatever she had said, screamed out loud and clear, “I have cancer!”

There was that damned green table again.

I tried to brush her news off like a stupid fly that won’t leave you alone. The initial indifference made me wonder, like my brother Casey, if I too am a sociopath. So astonishingly confused; I felt wronged by some mysterious power much greater than myself.

I looked at my family. Seeing them relieves me. It looks like they are feeling the same as me.  I must not be a sociopath. That’s good.

The next day I can tell my mom is stressed. She hides it as convincingly as actors on the Disney Channel.

One evening, I heard glass crashing in the kitchen.  I ran in and she was crying. The tears told me everything.  Ignoring the broken glass I wrapped my arms around her, letting her know I’ll be there through all of this (I am like a cat about physical contact. Only receiving when I want to, never giving except on rare occasions). An – infrequently spoken by me – “I love you” slipped from my lips. I know she is going to need all the love and support I can give.

My mom has never really been one to follow rules.  That two chord Judas Priest song just came to mind, “Breakn the law, breakn the law.” You know, she will just ignore the directions and figure out how to do it herself.  This tendency of hers caused her to somewhat distrust the doctors. Hours were spent reading and gathering all the data possible to make a well informed decision about how to combat the assassin that has claimed many, Breast Cancer.

All this stagnant waiting time between the diagnosis and treatment was really worrying me. I was stressed. Whether I knew it at the time I do not know, but I do now.

Initially, she decided to try a natural route. She had always eaten fairly healthy and eating well has always interested her. But she went crazy.  I am talking macrobiotics, all organic, cancer healing diet.  Macro requires a ton of cooking though, so it ended up too time consuming for her busy lifestyle.

After some time my mom finally put herself into her doctor’s hands. Chemo it was; an entire year was needed to combat the assassin. It was her full time job.  The problem with chemo is there is major collateral damage. Her nerves and organs would be harmed. Her hair would fall out. She would be bed ridden for days after each dose. 

Seeing my mom stuck in bed, well, I never thought I ever would. She hates to lie in bed all day.  Fresh air, exercise, her band, and taxi service for my siblings would all have to come to an end; but somehow, she micro-managed a lot of it from her bed.  It was painful to see her so sick and weak. She hated it, I hated it. We all wanted to see her get better.

A few weeks after chemo began her room turned pink from balloons, ribbons, mugs, cards, and blankets. Anything with a pink ribbon – she wanted to get a tattoo of it behind her ear, now she can’t stand the sight of them – was dispersed throughout her bedroom.

My brother and I began wearing those “I love boobies” bracelets. It was interesting to see people’s reaction to them. Most just thought it was a “high school thing.” Like this guy who said mockingly “of course you’re wearing one of those.” I wanted to tell him, “don’t judge me man, you have no idea.”

One year ago today she had a mastectomy.  We visited her in the hospital.  I cannot stand hospitals.  Whatever that smell is makes me sick, and those off white walls are repulsive. I want to leave from the moment I arrive, but I had to see my mom.

It was brutal to see her in the hospital all bandaged up. She was drifting in and out of sleep and the drugs had her so sedated she could hardly talk. Thank god the surgery had gone well.

I think the surgery; just the idea of surgery had us more on edge than we realized.  My mom’s nervousness, along with all her other moods, radiated outward; we all felt it.  She was obviously incredibly stressed about cutting out the thing that tried to kill her.  So was the rest of the family.  She felt it most though.

Incredibly, through this entire campaign, my mom stayed strong and could still complete all her motherly duties.  What an amazing woman. If wonder woman existed, it would be her.

She is now cancer free.  I remember once not too long ago, while I was at work, a woman came in I chat with sometimes. She said I was glowing.  She was right.  I was so happy for my family to be rid of the assassin that has claimed millions.