Two weeks ago, during a recreational evening, a gentleman friend noticed a lump in my breast and brought it to my attention. I went to my doctor, who, while optimistic, deemed it to require investigation. I have a mammogram scheduled for next week.

Because of my age (millennial) and my lack of genetic risk (no known blood relatives with breast cancer), it is almost certainly a benign cyst. There is a 99 percent chance that everything is just fine. But that leaves a 1 percent chance that it’s malignant. And because that chance is present, no matter how small, I find myself obsessively rolling it around in my mind, turning it over and over. If you read my column every week, you may remember my recent outbreak of stress hives. This lumpy development was one of the causes of those stress hives.

I have an anxiety disorder: an official one, with a diagnosis and medication and everything. Before I received proper treatment, I self-medicated with alcohol. The medication has helped with my panic attacks – those floods of adrenaline and cortisol that result when your brain pulls a fire alarm even when there’s no fire – but they can’t fix my catastrophic thinking. I am chronically prone to catastrophic thinking, and to over-thinking, and to worry-warting. A few people in my life have made the mistake of asking me: “What’s the worst that could happen?” And then they are horrified when my brain conjures up unlikely, but technically possible, scenarios that usually end with death or permanent suffering. (I am also a very creative person, which does not help in this case.) Brains with anxiety disorders often struggle with perception, possibility and probability.

If something bad is possible, my brain will consider it probable, no matter what the actual, calculable chances of the bad outcome happening are. From an outside perspective, my brain works in irrational, illogical ways, but from the inside of my noggin, things seem normal and sensible to me. Car engine making a weird noise? It’s going to explode. Dog barfing? She’s been poisoned. Lump in breast? Cancer!

Now, in my defense, I’ve lost several beloved family members to cancer, so it’s always at the forefront of my frontal lobe. My Uncle Tim had breast cancer – yes, men can get it, so talk to your doctor if you feel a weird lump, gentlemen! – and this is the first time in my life I have been grateful that he wasn’t a genetic relation.

Several weeks ago, I noticed a sudden, sharp drop-off in reader email. I like getting email from readers, whether or not they like my writing. (Sometimes, the hate mail is more entertaining than the fan mail. I like to read it to my mom.) But then I stopped hearing from most folks, and I just assumed it was because I was in a writing slump. After all, I’ve been writing this column since October 2017. The shtick has worn off. Maybe everyone has heard all I have to say and they are no longer motivated to drop me a line saying how they related to a piece, or if they liked it or didn’t like it and why. I figured I was doing something wrong. Maybe my pieces just hadn’t been that good.


Turns out, the Telegram has been misprinting my contact email address for two months.

My email address is I am THE Maine Millennial. There are no others. Accept no substitute. So if you have tried to get in touch with me at some point in the past few months, I hope you will accept my apologies. I was not ignoring you. I simply did not get the emails, and I assumed the worst scenario (personal failure) instead of the most statistically probable scenario (clerical error).

A hundred thousand years ago, it was probably beneficial for the survival of the human race to have people like me around, always visualizing the worst-case scenario and obsessing over details. I like to imagine a little proto-Victoria in Ice Age Europe: “No, Ugg, I heard noise in that cave! Probably saber tooth tiger. We sleep somewhere else.” But a trait that is useful in a community setting is pretty annoying on a personal level.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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