Monday, 2 July 2007

surviving breast cancer

my breasts
i was not fond of them
when they first appeared
i was a tom boy
born to run wild
they required a bra
which felt like a tight band
they joggled
their presence impeded me
i grew older, they grew familiar
they had their uses
they attracted the attention
of the opposite sex
i fell in love and married
they brought me much pleasure
i gave birth
they sustained my progeny
i edged towards middle age
i was woman, they were part of me
self examination found a lump
quickly excavated
no problem, benign
right breast now slightly misshapen
lump in left breast
benign, left breast now scarred
lump in right breast
too busy, must be benign
ignore while life carries on
my sister has breast cancer
i have a beloved husband
three wonderful children
god forgive me for delaying
not to worry
probably still benign
sign the form
permission to remove my breast
if they find cancer
no problem, after all
this lump is bound to be benign
the poor girl in the bed
next to mine
blood oozes from her nipple
sounds nasty, must be cancer
i am relaxed, mostly unafraid
i offer my arm for the anaesthetic
i awake, so cold, so very cold
they wrap me in a space blanket
heaters blow hot air beneath it
without knowing why
i am afraid
i grip the nurses hand
so tight
i hold onto her as if i was
holding on to life
back on the ward
i open my eyes to the garish
neon lights
i know, without being told
my hand seeks out my chest
i find a bandaged nothingness
i fail to understand
i open my eyes to see
my beloved hovering
such pain in his eyes
such fear
i smile because i must
i will live because i must
we do not abandon those we love
there are pumps and drains
drips and blood tests
doctors and nurses
with faces which attempt
to hide concern
i must walk and wash
i must face the mirror
of my future
unable to imagine
i confronted the image of my mutilation
with horror
the nurse, obviously a believer
watched the tears spout in my eyes
god still loves you
words of comfort not acceptable
to me
stage two, lymph two out of ten
exercises to teach my arm to move again
to prevent the permanent swelling
physiotherapists and a breast cancer survivor
to show me how
how to be beautiful with only one breast
to prove that it is possible to survive
i have never been interested in make up
in divine outfits
i am still a tomboy
they have sent me a fashion plate
kind and thoughtful
hardly helpful
i will learn on my own to become whole
when i no longer am
time to return home
the relief of my own bed
surrounded by those who love me
and things familiar
my beloved kneels beside the bed
leans over and kisses the awful wound
he will love the scar
which saved my life
i have learned, the cutting was not the end
the cancer still runs in my blood
i must face the poison drip
that which harms my body
to save my life
the unavoidable, chemotherapy
now i feel real fear
the cancer a reality i may not ignore
people die
i am afraid
i never went alone
to that place of healing
where they use poison
to banish the cancer
where many sit, suffering
the effects of the cure
grateful even in extreme nausea
for the chance to survive

i never finished this piece of writing ... i guess i am still learning to survive. in october i will have survived for thirteen years.

breast cancer changed me, physically, it changed the way i looked, more important, it changed the way i was, it changed my understanding of who i was and how i should live my life. breast cancer taught me many lessons, i learned the importance of seizing the moment, i learned, that for the physical eryll, time was not infinite.

when i knew i might be leaving planet earth, i realized how important the small things in life are. the warmth of sun on my skin, the sound of wind in the trees. in finding the courage to die,i came to know the true value of life.

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