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  • Ellen K. Reichman

Tiny Thing

Originally published in CIRQUE Volume 10, No. 2 (10th Anniversary Edition.)


Please just let me make it home. Please. Goddamn red lights. When I stop, I think. I can’t think. I just need to make it home.


Hold it together, Ellen. Hold it together. Think about anything else. Think about the weather. Think about your family. Think about your huge feet. Think about anything other than the last 20 minutes.


But all I could think about was the last twenty minutes. I was still in one of those glamorous hospital gowns having an ultrasound. All because of this tiny thing I felt in my left breast.

It’s not like I felt sick, or dizzy, or short of breath or had chest pains. I just had this … tiny thing.


I hesitated about making an appointment with my doctor to check it out. It was so tiny. And I did just have a mammogram. Following my instinct, though, I did go to see her. She confirmed feeling a tiny thing and ordered an ultrasound to get a better look.


I took the first opening I could get even though my husband was out of town and couldn’t accompany me. I was assured I wouldn’t receive the results until the radiologist read the report and informed my doctor.


I didn’t expect the technician to call in the radiologist as we both stared at the monitor. He entered the room without acknowledging me. Tall, dark and a liar. When I asked about this tiny thing, he mumbled, “Not sure yet. Could be cancer.”


He spoke into his armpit rather than looking at me. His tone was nonchalant – as if he stated, “Not sure of the weather today. Could start to rain.”


Liar, liar, liar.


Just drive, Ellen. Drive. Blast the radio. Open the window. Breathe the air. Just drive.

Remember the operative word – could. By the time I made it home, my breathing became labored. I raced upstairs to the bedroom and changed into my pajamas. It was then my phone rang. My friend asked how it went. In a shaky voice, I told her what had happened. She said everything was going to be ok. I lost it.

Not meaning to, I took my fear and rage out on her.


“How do you know everything is going to be ok!” I shrieked.


I ended the call and let my tears come. Tears I feared would not stop. Little did I know I would never shed another tear.


Dr. Personality Minus turned out to be right. It could be cancer, and it was; the tiny thing was a malignant tumor and not so tiny. After an MRI, two more not so tiny malignant tumors were found.

Almost overnight, I entered the world of the sick: Bilateral invasive breast cancer. Double mastectomy. Chemotherapy. Exhaustion. Nausea. Reconstruction.

A Cancer Patient.


I will never forget my first chemo infusion. As I entered a large room holding my husband’s hand, I whispered, “I feel so sorry for these people.”


He kindly peered into my eyes. I get it. I am these people. All because of a tiny thing.

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