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The Buttons Go in Front: An Essay About That Time I Found a Lump in My Breast

“I think I just found a lump,” I said, interrupting her mid-sentence. I was laying on my back, still in my nightgown, bare feet with painted red toes propped up on a pillow, talking on the phone with my best friend about everything and nothing, my hand resting on my breast, poking and pushing the flesh around for no reason at all, when I felt it–a hard knot, just above and to the left of my nipple. I’m not an expert on my breasts–no one ever sees or touches them–but I knew enough to know that this felt out of place.

“You need to get that checked,” she said. “Now,” with firm emphasis. Apparently, I put things off. I haven’t had a flu shot in 15 years. I avoid check-ups. I hate annuals. This works for me because I floss and brush my teeth. And I eat my broccoli. But. Cancer scares the crap out of me. I always think I have it even when I know I don’t. When I was little and didn’t understand the whole chemo thing, and I had hair wash down the drain in the shower, I was certain I was dying. I even wrote a will once and put it in my underwear drawer so my parents would find it after my funeral. I still remember–I bequeathed my scriptures and journal to my parents and my jewelry box, stuffed animals, and New Kids on the Block posters to my sisters.

But anyway. The lump. This was different. It wasn’t theoretical. I wasn’t eight years old anymore with a weird predisposition for thinking about death. I could feel this foreign thing with my own two hands, thus making the cancer fear no longer an intangible supposing but a possible reality. I mean, it could be …

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