For years now I’ve had this lump on the right side of my chest. The Doc noticed it first, when it was really small. I guess that’s part of what he does for a living—checks people for things. I’m sure there’s more to it than that. Has to be. Spending all day checking people for lumps doesn’t sound like much fun. Anyway, he pointed it out to mom and the two of them spent some time feeling it and talking about it. It made me a little self-conscious. I mean, I knew it was there but it didn’t bother me. Why, I wondered, should it bother them? It was a little weird, sure, but if I started worrying about everything I thought was a little weird I wouldn’t have time for anything else. Eventually they changed the subject and I assumed the business of the lump was over.
For the next couple of weeks it was business as usual. We were still going to the park every day back then so I could run around with my pals, chase squirrels, and get into the occasional dust up if one of the other mutts got out of line. If there was any mention of the lump I never heard it. Then one afternoon I found myself at the Vet’s.
“What,” I asked, “are we doing here?”
“It’s the lump. It’s getting bigger. We need to get it checked out.”
“But you’re a doctor, right? You already checked it out.” I tried to explain that I was fine with it and they shouldn’t put themselves out on my account. It still wasn’t bothering me and I felt great. They ignored me.
Then the Vet came in. Not the usual one, the woman I sort of like. This was some guy I’d never seen before. He and the Doc started talking about me and my lump like I wasn’t even in the room. I heard things like ‘tumor’, ‘lipoma’, and ‘biopsy’. I had no idea what they were talking about. It was a lump, plain and simple.
“Can we go home now? It’s almost dinner time.” Apparently not.
The next thing I know the Vet takes me out of the exam room and back to this other room that reeks of nervous animals. He feels around, finds the lump, says something like ‘this will just take a second’, then jabs me with a needle! Right in the lump! I was more surprised than anything. It didn’t really hurt and he was right about the time frame, but still.
He walked me back to the exam room and the folks made a big deal about how good I was. I wasn’t in the mood for chit chat and made a move for the door but the Vet managed to get out and close it before I could get there.
“O.K. Now what?”
“We wait for the results.”
“You know he stabbed me with a needle, right?”
“Yeah. Sorry about that. It’s called a biopsy. Your lump is technically a tumor. Some tumors are O.K., meaning they might be a little uncomfortable or look bad but they aren’t dangerous. They won’t kill you. I’m pretty sure your lump is one of those but we need to be sure so we had to get a piece of it and look at it under a microscope. That’s what the Vet is doing now.”
“And if you’re right?”
“We go home and have dinner.”
“And if your wrong and it’s the other kind of tumor?”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
There was no bridge anywhere in sight. In fact, as far as I knew there was no bridge anywhere near the Vet’s place. I was about to ask for some clarification but just then the door opened and the Vet walked in, all smiles. I thought about biting him for stabbing me but figured that would only complicate things.
“It’s just a lipoma,” he announced.
I looked at the Doc.
“It means it’s a fatty tumor, benign, no big deal.”
“She might develop others, and this one might get bigger. I’d leave it alone for now. If we removed it there’s a chance it would just grow back.”
I was glad I’d decided not to bite him. Who knows, I could have ended up having things ‘removed’, which sounded a lot worse than getting a biopsy. I wasn’t altogether pleased with the ‘fatty’ thing but I let it go.
So that was that. For a long time there was only the occasional mention of the lump. But the Vet had been right. A few years later I had a small one on my left side, and the original one had gotten bigger. Quite a bit bigger. It still didn’t bother me much, though, so I tried not to think about it.
I was about four years old when this all happened. I’m about eleven now. The lump is still there and it’s big. So big the groomer, (who made a surprise attack yesterday—and yes, I ran to the door when the doorbell rang, just like always, and didn’t figure out it was him until it was too late, like always), the groomer, made a big deal about it.
As you know he’s not my favorite person to begin with and his comments yesterday did nothing to improve our relationship. He started going on about how big the lump had gotten, like he hadn’t felt it in ages. Then he called me old. Said there was no way the thing could be removed now because of my age. He went so far as to say I might not survive if I had surgery.
Then he tried to make up for it by saying that otherwise I was in great shape, blah, blah. Who, I wondered, did he think he was? It’s not like he’s a Vet himself. He’s a groomer. He gives baths, cleans teeth, makes me smell like perfume.
After he left I got the Doc alone and let him know how I felt. I told him maybe it was time for another opinion. I mean, maybe we should think about removing it. Maybe my shoulders wouldn’t bother me as much, on those days they bother me, which are getting more frequent. He said he’d think about it.
“I don’t really want surgery, but I don’t want to think I can’t have it because I’m too old, either.”
“Believe it or not, I understand completely.”
I was going to ask what he meant by that, but decided to wait for another time. I have a feeling the lump business isn’t over after all.