Tears and the Sea

by Julie Sladden

I found a lump. Sounds innocuous when you say it like that. It was about the size of a pea. Really, it was. Small. Hard. Painless. I was sitting watching telly with my boys and my hand was resting under my armpit as I massaged my sore muscles from the day’s swim.

‘Well, that’s new,’ I thought. My next thought was one of annoyance, ‘What a pain in the arse.’ As a doctor, I knew the next steps—the ultrasound, the mammogram (ouch), the needle biopsy—but ultimately it would need to come out. And it was probably benign. I had no family history of breast cancer, I was fit, healthy and young. Really, I had no risk factors for breast cancer. So, my ultimate feeling was one of annoyance, not alarm.

But it wasn’t. And I’m on the conveyor-belt. I’m pushed, pulled, prodded. Parts of me are removed. I don’t own myself anymore. Did I ever? All of a sudden it feels like everyone else has more ‘weighin’ on what happens to me next, than I do. There’s a tidal-wave of cards and flowers and calls and messages. I can’t keep up. I just want to leave. Escape from it all. Would anyone notice? I could leave the defective parts of me behind if that helps.

Then as quickly as it begins, it ends. The wave recedes back into the sea. Taking parts of me with it. I’m not sure what’s left. And so I begin to swim again. The water soothes my battered body. My tears mix with the sea, and no-one can tell. Only the sea knows. Out there I can just be me. No one can get to me. And so the sea heals me.