Prompt Day #36: While checking her breast for lumps, a woman discovers something far worse. What?
I’ll be the first to admit that I never did regular self-breast exams. I mean, I’ve always thought they were a good idea and I’m all for pink ribbons and 3 day walkathons but I guess I was never one to be hyper-vigilant about my own health. Bad stuff like that happened to other people, until it happened to me.
The first time I noticed something was wrong, I was getting undressed before my shower and my bra sort of stuck to my right nipple. I looked but saw nothing so I did what any woman would do: I squeezed my nipple to see if something would come out. Nothing did that I could tell. By the time I got out of the shower, I’d forgotten it completely.
The next morning, when I woke up, the sheet stuck to me too. This time when I looked there was a spot of what looked like mold growing on my breast. I went straight to the bathroom and washed it off. Squeezed the nipple again and a few strands of fine, hair-like fibers came out. I felt my breast all over for lumps. I thought I could feel maybe a tiny one but I could have been imagining it too. I decided to make an appointment with my doctor, just to be safe.
The doctor was very kind and reassuring. She said it was not uncommon for women like me to occasionally leak a little from their nipples and that unless it came out on its own, or was a weird color not to worry. She said it certainly was not mold and we laughed. I remember making the joke about how it could have been mold because it had been so long since they were used for anything. When she did the physical exam, she did not feel the lump I thought I had felt (three times by now) and sent me on my way with instructions to call back if it got worse or changed.
A week later, I no longer thought I felt a lump, I knew I did. It was the size of a marble and was just off to the side of my areola. It did not feel very deep. I decided rather than go running back to my doctor, I would simply “keep an eye on it” and if it got any worse, I promised myself I would call. The odd thing was; the mold/sticky stuff stopped when the bump became more noticeable. Another week went by and the mass got even bigger. Now the size of a ping-pong ball; I really needed to make the appointment, only I didn’t think I was ready to hear what the doctor might say. So, I waited.
When a bulge could be seen pushing out the side of my breast just under the skin, as well as felt, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I called the doctor. She was on vacation and couldn’t see me right away. I’d waited this long, what was two more weeks? I made the appointment and hung up. I felt better about it.
Then the lump started moving, almost writhing, four days before I was to see Dr. Webster. I started to poke at it and squeeze it like a pimple. I wasn’t really afraid anymore; it certainly couldn’t be the C-word. After all, I’d never heard of a tumor crawling around under the skin like that. I squeezed until my whole breast was red and swollen, downed a few Ibuprofen and took a nap.
I awoke to the sensation of something lightly tickling me. You know that feeling like there is a bug crawling on you, but there isn’t really? That feeling was so strong I woke up brushing at my stomach. I threw the covers back and screamed. There in my bed, on my blankets and pushing out of tiny holes in my nipple were hundreds if not thousands of baby spiders! The lump was noticeably smaller too. I batted at them and smashed them and watched helplessly as they birthed themselves out of my breast. I was literally lactating arachnids. Tiny red-brown babies just kept sliding out of me. I screamed again. I ran to the shower and managed to wash all the newborns off of me but could do nothing about the ones still pushing through.
I wrapped a towel around my waist just under my breasts, and calmly walked out to the kitchen. I knew what I had to do. I took the biggest knife I had in my rack and plunged it into the spot where the deflating lump was. Blood poured out with dozens of tiny creatures riding the crimson wave. Still, they came, now from two places instead of one. Without thinking, I grabbed my nipple, pulled it taut and lopped it off along with as much of the areola as I could get in one go. I was in such a frenzy, I never felt the pain. I reached into the large hole with one finger, feeling for the nest. I found it and pulled. Long strands of bloody, grey web came out. I pulled it all free, and threw the soggy mass into the trash. Baby spiders crawled around all over it. I grabbed some paper towels to stop the bleeding but then I saw silvery threads spilling out of what was left of my breast. The mother spider was still in there and she was already building a new nest.
Once again I probed the hole and felt a large, pulsating knob way up inside. I couldn’t quite reach that far with my thumb in order to pull it out. There was really only one option. I picked up the big kitchen knife and I cut off what remained of my right breast. I cut off the whole thing. It fell to the floor with a sickening “plop” sound. I grabbed my tennis shoe and I hammered on that chunk of fat until it looked like pink tapioca. I could see some black mixed in there as well, so I know I got her. I looked down at myself and could see nothing but chest wall muscle. Good. That was good. Nothing left of the spiders.
I go to group every day and every day I tell this story. They tell me I’ll get to go home when I realize that it never happened. They say I imagined the spiders. They say you can get post-partum depression after a miscarriage just the same as after you have a live baby. I tell them that I am not at all depressed about losing those baby spiders; but having only one breast is a little upsetting. They just shake their heads and say “We’ll try again next week, Sydney. Maybe you’ll feel differently then.”