A lump is a lump is a lump

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.

-Janis Joplin

Recently, I had a clogged duct – the second of my breastfeeding days, and certainly the worst. You could tell where it was because I had a red mark on the skin above it. Never before have I had a clog so bad it showed on the outside.

It started on a Friday. Mom and I slipped out early and had a girls’ day. No kids – just us. Like we used to do. I went over 12 hours without nursing, and boy, did I feel it. It took Kai all night to relieve my engorgement. The next day, I was a little sore, but when you nurse a toddler all night, that’s to be expected. (One word: Teeth.) But the following day, I absolutely ached. Then I knew something was up. By Sunday night, I was feeling feverish and achy, to boot.

Classic clogged duct symptoms. The cause, the progression, the effect. Didn’t stop my mind from wandering to cancer. I guess with my family history, that’s natural.

I dusted off the pump, dug out the bottles, and pumped for half an hour before each nursing session. Massaged and massaged, though doing so sent spikes of pain to my tailbone. Warm compresses. Hot showers. I worked and worked that knot.

By Monday, the lump had moved from midway down the top of my breast to just behind my nipple. Cancer doesn’t exactly tend to move, so I should have relaxed. But I merely picked holes in my relief by reminding myself that I didn’t remember precisely where the lump had been the day before, so how could I say for certain it had moved?

Pumping, massaging, and more pumping.

That afternoon, I saw the nurse practitioner for something unrelated, and I asked her about it. She concurred that it was a clogged duct, and gave me a prescription for an antibiotic in case it progressed to mastitis.

That night, as Kai nursed, the clog worked itself free. I woke as it passed, and when Kai was done nursing I gingerly poked the area around where it’d been. I was still sore, but the mass was gone.

Not cancer, after all.

It’s hard not to worry about that kind of thing, though. I’m not the only one who would be affected now. As scary as breast lumps can be, they’re infinitely more scary when you have two little lives depending upon you. The last time I was this worried about a lump, I was single; now there is so much more riding on my health than simply my own well-being. So I am very happy to have been worrying for nothing. I’ve got a lot to lose these days.

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