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You relax in your bed, toes curling underneath the warm blankets, the air conditioning chilling the room.
You’re too lazy to turn the thing down—and the rhythmic humming eases your stress.
Your calico cat, Tiger, who is always staring wide-eyed in every direction, and who gets her fur all over your black tee, is on your bed. She’s resting on the large pink bear your best friend gave to you for Valentine’s day—it’s so large, it’s just about as tall as you are. The downside of having a pet cat is that it not only sheds, but ignores your attempts at affection.
You roll onto your stomach, pulling a pillow down to rest your chin on, and give one last glance at Tiger, petting her cheek just the way she likes. She ignores you and goes back to cleaning her paw.
Then you sit up, an odd weight sinking on your chest. Something has appeared, and you’ve only just noticed now as you lie on your bed.
Your fingers touch the upper part of your breast—they push to feel a lump.
Panic forces its way through you and you press the lump again, like you’re trying to pinch yourself awake, to prove you’re not dreaming—though every bit of you wishes you were.
You reach for your phone, clutching it tightly, hands shaking, your body trembling as if the ground below your feet is quaking.
You walk out of your room, dazed, and follow the green wall that leads you down the stairs, past the empty sofa and the blank TV, away from the humming fridge and spin of the ceiling fan, to the gold mirror in the bathroom. Your fingers flip the switch and the dark room fills with an unsteady light.
You pull your shirt off your shoulder, slip your bra strap down, and again, feel the terrifying lump with your fingers.
You’re only eighteen. The world has just started to come alive. You’ve just started to feel alive, to feel okay. This can’t be happening.
You power on your phone, searching Google for any comforting answer, blue link after blue link, black text after black text, bold highlighted words. Your brain can only think of one thing—cancer, do one thing—panic.
You sink to the tiled floor, gravity overpowering your numb body, and curl up into a human knot. You’re crying hot tears, an ugly cry, a plea for something good to magically come out of this.
You repeat, “It’s just a cyst. It could be a cyst. It can’t be a tumour.” You rock back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The sound of the thump each time your back hits the washing machine echoes, like a slowed down version of your heart that is rapidly beating out of your chest.
An endless wave of grief from losing family and friends to this disease—and the realization that it could be you, too—drowns you. Water goes up your nose, the salt claws at your eyes, the sand bites madly at your skin.
You’re scared of the darkness that could consume you, you’re scared of the pain that could ensue, you’re scared of having to say goodbye.
Author’s note: Remember, you are not alone. If you find yourself in this scenario, don’t wait to contact your health provider, and reach out to those who love you. In the end, I discovered my tumour was benign, but to be safe, early discovery is best.