There are some songs that are so heavy with meaning that every time you hear them, memories flood your mind. During the summer of 1996, there was one song that kept me afloat.
“What’s this?” I think. I’m lying on my bed in my apartment, left arm above my head, suddenly frozen in fear. I feel a plain difference in my left breast compared to my right.
There’s a ball-like formation that I can feel all the way around. It’s not attached to my chest, but is just floating there, in the middle of my breast. I push all suggestions that it’s a lump out of my mind.
Rain rain on my face
It hasn’t stopped raining for days
My world is a flood
Slowly I become one with the mud.
Three weeks later I think I have a yeast infection. I’ve never had one before, so I’m not sure. I make an appointment at the clinic in town. The doctor examines me, and says no infection, but there’s something else here. You need a mammogram, today. He takes me to radiology. After the mammogram, the radiologist looks at the films and says, you need to see a surgeon, today. No one shows me the films. I wait in an exam room, shivering. This whole afternoon is turning into a nightmare. When I finally see the surgeon, he says, I’m taking that lump out tomorrow morning.
I’m 27, alone. I walked into the clinic with a yeast infection. I walk out with breast cancer.
Down pour on my soul
Splashing in the ocean I’m losing control
Dark sky all around
I can’t feel my feet touching the ground.
I’m angry, so angry, that I was hustled from room to room, never asked if I wanted to call someone, never given a chance to breathe, never given any choices. For the next couple of years, I swallow tears every time I drive past the clinic–it’s a small town and that street is hard to avoid.
My parents tell me; beg me; come home. They don’t wait for me; they come and get me instead.
But if I can’t swim after forty days
And my mind is crushed by the thrashing waves
Lift me up so high that I can not fall
Lift me up
My new surgeon shows me the films. He points out a star pattern. It could be scar tissue, perhaps. Have I ever been hit really hard in the chest? No, not that I remember. If this is scar tissue, you’d remember, he replies. He gives me some options.
The lumpectomy confirms every one’s suspicions.
Lift me up–when I am falling
Lift me up–I’m weak and I’m dying
Lift me up–I need you to hold me
Lift me up–keep me from drowning again.
Jars of Clay