Body and Soul
by Kathleen A. Ryan
The box of tissues in the nurse’s hand gave it away before the breast surgeon could utter a word.
“It’s not good,” he said. “We’re recommending a left breast mastectomy, lymph node removal, and chemotherapy. Would you be interested in reconstruction?”
“I’m still on ‘It’s not good.’”
I’m whisked away to consult with a plastic surgeon. The next thing I know, I’m in a tiny room with a crowd, being photographed naked from the waist up--my “before” body silhouette photographs.
“Turn sideways,” they instruct.
In the operating room two weeks later, the plastic surgeon marks my chest with a Sharpie, using feathery strokes to map out his plan to insert a tissue expander after my breast is removed.
“Ultimately, you’ll sacrifice looks for contour,” he says.
I’m sacrificing a breast for my life, I thought.
A question came to mind that night in my hospital room.
“When I gave birth, I was in the maternity ward,” I said to the nurse. “What floor do they put you on when they remove a breast?”
“This is the oncology ward,” she says, as if I should have known.
“But that’s for cancer pa--oh, yeah, that’s me.”
I’m not in any rush to have these bandages removed. Nothing like breast cancer to drastically alter a woman’s shape.
But it will never bend my spirit, which soars with gratitude for being given a second chance at life.