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  • davikath8

Beautiful and Brutal: My Bilateral Mastectomy

Any person who prides themselves on being X, Y, or Z, is probably not all that X, Y, or Z. 

Pride is a huge slice of lard that slides and soothes, that coats the nerves and makes everything raw and hurtful into something smothered and greasy.

The more superior qualities are advertised, the less likely they are to be superior qualities.

I had the misfortune of meeting Woman’s Best Friend in the dandy silhouette of my breast cancer surgeon, a middle-aged man with carefully coiffed hair and carefully chosen shirts and ties. He was well practiced in being Woman’s Best Friend. His banter of subservience and self-deprecation to Woman was so often repeated, it rolled off his tongue like a rasher of bacon. He grabbed and stroked my hand and looked into my eyes. He cheered and charmed. 

Well, at least he thought he cheered and charmed. This little routine, this show he put on, to manage and attempt to control his female patients, shocked and nauseated me. It enraged me. 

As a woman (and not Surgeon’s Best Friend) about to get my bilateral mastectomy in this man’s OR, I found him repellant. He chattered and laughed and flashed his bright eyes. Meanwhile, I took stock of my own character: complex, tough, dark, intelligent. Someone with a long and complicated history of tangling with cancer and battling with doctors. 

This man and I did not belong in the same room together. This man and I did not speak the same language. This man did not understand me and made no attempt to do so. He was there only to get the job done, to keep the assembly line of lumpectomy and mastectomy ever moving.

Apparently, in this surgeon’s conception, we little ladies couldn’t handle the truth. Breast cancer and disfiguring surgery had to be trussed in peonies and roses, had to be doused in perfume and cologne, had to be buried under a trillion idiotic banalities.

Thankfully, I have long practice in dealing with bullies, in dealing with men who feel it necessary to control not just my body but also my feelings.

I interrupted Surgeon. I talked over Surgeon. Just as he articulated what surgery I should have, what fake boobs I should fasten to my wounded chest, I articulated what surgery I wanted to have: flat closure, two hours of surgery as opposed to eight hours of surgery, no fussing with possibly cancerous or cancer-concealing fake boobs.

Surgeon honored my wishes, although many women confront, along with their breast cancer, flat denial, when physicians don’t respect women’s choices about what they want to do with their bodies when cancer treatment involves surgery.

Surgeon left a derogatory letter in my medical file. Surely, I would come to my senses and have my breasts reconstructed! Surely if not reconstruction, then prostheses! Surely if not prostheses, then tattoos to disguise my scars!

Although these are all valid choices for women, it was important to me to refuse them all. 

I refuse to hide what I have endured. 

I stand whole and perfect with my scars. 

To be honest and valiant. To proclaim the truth.

Like my writing, my body, both hurt and healing, is a reflection of my character.

It is a testament to my experience, beautiful and brutal, uniquely mine.

Woman dancing
Movement celebrates life

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