Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • My fingers trembled as I picked the envelope off the floor. The mail had come late, so late, well past seven, closer to eight. I expected birthday cards or magazines, a ValPak of coupons, something other than the letter on the floor, but the tremble in my fingers belied the worry I had been hiding for weeks.

    Feigning nonchalance to my empty living room, I leafed through the other items. Two catalogues.

    "ModCloth? I must have ordered that dress… hmmm… two years ago?"

    One postcard.

    "An opportunity to run a clinic?"

    A quick check of the name and address confirmed that it was not me, not mine. I set it aside to deliver one block over in the morning.

    I ran out of mail, caught my breath and focused on opening the end of the envelope.

    "Thin," I thought. "Thin is good."

    I tugged at the paper but it wouldn't release.

    "Thin. Good," I pulled at the other end and tried tugging that way. "They would have called if it something were wrong."

    The surgeon who performed the clinical exam had mentioned the number of nodes under my left arm, laughing it off as a simple comparison to the right, but nobody had ever mentioned either before.

    "Why won't this…?" I sighed in exasperation.

    The exam surprised me. I was scheduled for one later. October. Not now. I came to close out a year of giving my body to science, taking vitamins, succumbing to scans and giving a bit of tissue in a rather painful procedure that left me bruised for weeks at the beginning and end. It wasn't my exam. It wasn't about me.

    "For feck's sake," I muttered as I slid my finger under the flap at the top and pulled at the envelope.

    The lumps that weren't supposed to be there at all, the lumps that sent me for imaging time and again and back for exams every six months, the lumps seemed lumpier. I'd been so tired, so sore, so everything that wasn't anything but other than me, but I blamed an adverse reaction to the painkillers I took for my ankle and knee.

    The envelope refused to give so I started ripping. By the time I finished, I could smooth it flat, a thought that fluttered from my mind as I slowly unfolded the paper with shaking hands.

    "Breathe. Just… breathe."

    I scanned the page and stopped at one word. Everything else disappeared as I sank to a chair.

    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.