Normally, when someone is diagnosed with cancer, the question of his or her mortality arises. That is, unless the person diagnosing you is your mother. Oh yeah, Dr. Mom. Give her an old-school thermometer, the vast expanse of the Internet and an overactive, hypochondriac imagination, and my mother will find out what's ailin' ya'. I believe over the years that she has diagnosed any one of her three boys with a wide variety of medical afflictions yet to be documented by the actual medical community.
But that shouldn't cloud the legitimacy of her work, should it? Or the fact she's absent a medical license. Medical license, sh-medical license. She doesn't need no stinking medical license. She got a full ride at Web MD University; graduated with full honors if memory serves correctly. Now, none of this would be that bad if but for one thing: She thinks everything is cancer.
Got a busted lip? Cancer. Stomach giving you fits? Yep, that's cancer. Breathing perfectly normal? Sounds like the cancer all right. Something interrupting your normally-scheduled television programming? Somebody must have cancer.
When I was a kid, she would feel my glands mercilessly, the ones under my jaw the most. She would do so repeatedly, checking to see if they were swollen so she could diagnose me with cancer from a young age. And even if they weren't swollen, by the time she would stop rubbing them, they would be. When I was about 11, the gland under my left breast enlarged rather dramatically - considering most prepubescent boys don't develop breasts or, in this case, a single breast. Turned out that everything was fine, but there were a few days in 1991 when my mother actually thought I had breast cancer.
Problem is, this wonderful parental trait has bled over to me (and nobody tell my mother someone is bleeding, because I know what she'll say is causing it). So, you understand why I was more than concerned the other day when I noticed what felt like a volleyball-sized lump under my jaw. Whatever that gland under your jaw is called (feeling a tad lazy for Google research at the moment) had ballooned incredibly.
Usually in these types of circumstances, I just stay away from my mother. She can smell a swollen gland in the air the way sharks can smell blood in the water. Staying away from my mother, however, would prove quite difficult. She lives five houses away. And the next day was her birthday.
Christine - she's my main squeeze - said it was probably a saliva duct infection, and that she got them all the time when she was a kid. I believed her, mostly because Christine's prognosis wasn't as grim as my mother's would be. Nevertheless, we both then went about the business of figuring out how to conceal the lump in my throat. Turtleneck! No brainer, right? You go turtleneck. Every. Single. Time. I've always had a problem trusting a guy wearing a turtleneck, but that's just me. I'm always thinking, "I wonder what that guy is hiding under there?" (If you're wearing a turtleneck now, my apologies.)
But you know what? I decided to come clean to my mother when we visited her on the night of her birthday. I couldn't take the pressure and couldn't pull off the apparel illusion. Right before I told her, it seemed as though the swollen gland was pulsating, like the heart underneath the floorboards in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." I couldn't take the pressure.
I was ... cracking!
And so I confessed to Dr. KevorkiMom.
"You need go to the doctor and see if you need a biopsy," she said. "That could be cancer."
So, the next day I went to our family doctor - who knows my mother thinks everything is cancer and has grown quite rich because of this - and he told me it wasn't cancer. It was a salivary duct infection, just like Christine had said. After that, my mother went back to obsessively worrying about other people's glands, and not my own.
So, while the lump in my throat eventually went away, the lump in my mother's throat still remains.
To contact Will E Sanders, visit his website at www.willesanders.com or send him an e-mail at [email protected] To find out more about Will E Sanders and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.