By Lisa Cron
last question," I say to the plastic surgeon who will do the
reconstruction, "can you give me some idea what it will look
like, I mean will it look like a real breast?"
yes," he says. "Absolutely. In clothes you won't be able
to tell the difference."
to say, hey, in junior high I could do that with a pair of gym socks
and a box of Kleenex. I'm talking about stark naked for the first
time with a new boyfriend. How about then? None of the doctors understand
about sex. I am over forty. I have two kids. What does sex have
to do with anything?
found the calcification cluster a month earlier during a routine
mammogram. After the biopsy my doctor told me it might never become
cancerous. We could monitor it. Forever. Or I could have a mastectomy.
I realized that any chance it had to remain benign ended with that
statement, because now, subjected to a daily stress cocktail, it
was sure to turn deadly in no time. Either that or I'd have a stroke
worrying about it. Besides, I was about to move from New York to
Los Angeles, losing my health insurance in the process. I didn't
see it as a choice.
I have a mastectomy. Which comes with a consolation prize. Implants.
My left breast, the healthy one, is a trophy -- voluptuous, pendulous,
ripe, all those words that never applied to me before. My right
breast is misshapen, the areola crudely colored in, the tattoo ink
is already fading. A scar runs from the nearly invisible nipple
deep into my armpit. The breast itself is hard, unforgiving, completely
devoid of its mate's new soft pliable plumpness. It is nothing more
than skin stretched over muscle stretched over a saline filled silicone
sac, that I can always feel, like if you swallowed a rock and it
got stuck in your throat.
the beginning, I touch it all the time and pretend I am an amorous
man. Would it destroy the mood? I feel like a scientist. I am so
curious that I am tempted to walk up to strangers and ask them to
fondle it and give me their opinion. Finally, I turn to an old boyfriend
who I haven't seen since the operation.
first Jeff is a little uncomfortable, but he soon warms to the topic
in a way I hadn't anticipated. "You had the smallest tits I
ever saw, " he says, like he is confessing something it had
been hard to hold in, "I didn't know a woman who'd had two
kids could be that flat-chested. I was amazed, stunned, and you
know me, I've always liked small breasted women. But now, I mean
it's not like you're busty or anything, but you look really good
in profile, you must be happy about that part of it." He has
no idea that what he is saying hurts. Not a clue.
the nurse, the day after the mastectomy. She tidies my hospital
room, eying me with nervous pity. I can tell she just has to say
something. Finally she blurts, "You know who I really feel
sorry for? The women with big breasts. They have so much more to
lose. It's such a shock for them. You're lucky, it's not such a
big change for you." My face freezes, and I am seized with
the absurd desire to keep her from realizing what she's just said.
But she isn't paying attention to me anymore. She's humming as she
takes away my uneaten breakfast tray. Then it hits me, she thought
she was comforting me.
are now standing in Jeff's kitchen. "Let me see them, "
he says. "You want me to lift my shirt?" "Yeah"
up straight and quickly suck in my stomach. I pull my shirt up to
my chin. He stands back, arms crossed, head cocked, and takes a
good long look. That's when I realize that, in his mind, this is
not personal at all. He is pretending to be any man. He is going
to give me an objective opinion. I feel myself blush. I am glad
he isn't looking at my face.
he says at last, "they're fine." His glance lingers on
the gimp. "It's not so bad." Like a doctor, he reaches
for it. "It's hot," he sounds surprised. What did he think
it would feel like? Doesn't he know it's me? Can't he feel my heart
beating like a drum, amplified by that fucking saline? He reaches
for the other one, my prize, with the same detachment. Nodding he
says, "this one feels real." He steps back, smiling. "They're
fine, I don't think you need to worry. You meet some guy and it's
just one thing, no big deal really."
the first time I look him in the eye. "Easy for you to say."
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