Last night my sister Lisa came over for dinner. She dragged herself in through the door with ripped jeans and what looked like a flannel blanket around her shoulders. Fashionable is not how you would define Lisa at moments like this. Her skin was glowing white and the expression on her face could only be interpreted as exhaustion. Lisa covered the Whitney Houston funeral for the news over in Newark. She had gotten up at the crack of dawn and stood outside most of the day, dampness creeping into her bones. She called me at 6:30 PM when she had gotten home. Her voice a low whisper, “I’m so tired. I can’t believe I have to take off again for Austin on Monday. I’m just so tired.” Lisa and I live in the same building; she’s six flights above me.
“Come down, I have made soup.” Every few weeks I make a vat of chicken stock from chicken bones. I usually buy chicken wings, roast them up and then boil them in water for hours with celery, carrots, onions, garlic and whatever other vegetables I have in my refrigerator. I bag up the broth into small portions for nights just like this. In tonight’s broth I boiled chunks of squash, carrots, garlic, kale and navy beans. I made quinoa in a separate pot and dished a heap in the bottom of each soup bowl and then poured the soup over that. I dribble lemon oil over the mixture just as I’m serving it to add extra zip. Lisa settles into the red chair cradling the warm bowl in her hands. She sips the soup and says, “This tastes good for me.” The soup is rustic and Lisa is right, it does taste good for you. I’m not really sure the statement, “It tastes good for me.”is really a compliment. We’re going to ignore that detail.
I gave one of my frozen soup portions to Kelly, my yoga teacher last Thursday night. Kelly is 46 with a long lean physique of a dancer and the soothing temperament of a yoga instructor. She is beautiful inside and out. Her breast cancer metastasized into her hipbone and more recently onto her liver. We haven’t done yoga together in the past month as the lesions are causing her extreme pain. Instead, I drive her home after her chemo when I am in town. Last Thursday, the schedule worked out perfectly and I made sure she had the soup. I secretly hope my soup causes miracles.
Lent begins on Wednesday and I have very mixed feelings about it. It reminds me of finding my lump and yet I know it was pure serendipity that I found it at all. Two years ago I had just given up eating mammal products and the bloat I had long complained of was melting away. I was thrilled to say the least. I decided for Lent I would continue with the new diet AND do 40 sit-ups a night. My plan was to look svelte by Easter and maybe even for the rest of my life. I told Lisa this. She shook her head, “That’s self serving. Why don’t you say the rosary every night to honor the priest who made you a member of his parish.” I rolled my eyes and pursed my lips. I knew she was right and then she added, “Think of it as a kind of meditation.” She had me with that. So, I began doing 40 sit-ups and saying the rosary every day. I couldn’t have been happier, a triathlon of good deeds you might say. Saying the rosary was soothing. I have fairy lights that hang over a large mirror in my bedroom. I’d lie on the bed, put on the lights and say the beads. It’s a wonderful way to quiet the day.
Three weeks into the practice it was a chilly Sunday when I lay down on my bed to say the beads. It was cold and I tucked my arms up under my breasts and it was then that my wrist felt the lump. It was positioned at 6:00 under the nipple and would never have been felt unless I was lying down. My recent weight loss helped too. I didn’t believe it actually was a lump. I jumped up off the bed and didn’t feel it as much when I stood. When I lay down again, I felt it quite clearly. Up and down I went, as did my panic. I called my sister Colleen, “I have a lump in my breast. I just found it.” My voice was starting to crack with fear. She assured me we come from lumpy women. “I’ve had a few lumps over the years. They were nothing.”
I called Vita the next morning. She was less than soothing and insisted I run to the doctor’s. She just about screamed into the phone, “You get it checked out immediately.” Vita had already had her double mastectomy and knew a thing or two about lumps. I was panicked but stood firmly behind a veil of denial as I made an appointment at the gynecologist. From the gynecologist I went and had mammogram just days later. They didn’t actually see the lump, my breasts were too dense. A sonogram was done and they didn’t see it clearly even then… we all felt it though. It was suggested I get a biopsy done. It all began like a slow boil and I know the lump would never have been found without the combination of giving up mammal products and saying the rosary on a cold afternoon. It was serendipity.