I like my skin clear of warts, black heads. I am fine with time wrinkles, light bruises I acquire bumping into things, and now and then the odd scar. On my right breast showed up a black head without a black head a small bump. The cosmetologist didn’t want to touch it because it was on the breast. The dermatologist said I should just live with it. The gynecologist said were it to be on my vagina she’d remove it pronto, she often does for her patients, but since it’s on my breast, she wanted to make sure nothing was lurking under it, so off I go to get my mammogram, then she’ll refer me to a general surgeon. A mammogram for those who haven’t experienced it is like trustingly putting your breasts or testicles in a waffle maker and then the cook slams it hard and then screws it tighter and tighter, all along praising you you are doing great, so you suffer thru the various positions, angles to get a full view of the insides of your breasts. Then you wait a few days for the results. In my case a phone call came asking me to come back because there’s something to check on my left boob. I went in for my right boob, for the offending blackhead, and now I’m told something is wrong with my left one! So dutifully I go stick my boob in the waffle iron again. Then wait on the premises for the results sitting on chairs with other quiet women in pink hospital gowns. The doctor shows me on a screen two white dots, like far away stars on a cosmic photo. Those are calcifications, she explains. Is it because I take calcium pills daily? No, no, nothing to do with that. But it requires biopsy, to decide if the stars are cancerous or benign. My cousin died from cancer. I checked the intake sheet box, Do you have cancer in your family? Yes. Breast cancer? Yes. I stuff my pink gown in the disposal can, and amble out in the bustling street. People eating lunch, talking on phones, walking with a purpose. Life. I feel excluded.
With a mournful voice I call the radiology clinic for the biopsy appointment.
In two days they’ll take a peck of my flesh. Drill for oil in my breast. I walk
about in a daze. I don’t want to tell anyone. People hear more than enough
about breast cancer. I shall not burden anyone with my sorry tale. It is all my
doing. Decades of anger and misery because I won’t forgive and forget the past.
It is all my doing. I want to hear kind voices; I call my elderly friend in
Hungary. She needs a knee replacement and has to wait for two years to get an
operation. I merely called the biopsy center and they scheduled me for that
On Thursday at 1:30 p.m. the young nurse gives me an instruction sheet of
paper, explains the procedure, and I nod. I’m clamped in the waffle iron grid
again, this time I’m not allowed to look. The doctor tells me she’ll give me an
injection to numb the pain. Alright. I had my teeth fixed this spring; my gums
are perforated like a drug addict’s veins from all the anesthesia. I can do
that. Ouch, and ouch and ouch. I don’t look, there is a drill in my breast, but
I shall survive. I take a peek, there’s blood running all over my lap. The
assistant takes a wad of gauze and pushes into my breast with all her might. Go
away, you are hurting me, don’t hurt me! What are you doing? This is a breast!
You can’t beat a breast! I’ll get cancer; don’t you know you are not supposed
to hit breasts?! She pushes like a matador into a bull! You’d think they found
some medicine to stop bleeding without further injuring you. The doctor comes
back after 10 minutes or so, starts to seal my wound, reminds me she placed a
grain of iron in my breast, a marking for the surgeon if the area needs to be
removed. But the airport detectors won’t scream their alarm. She puts sterile
band aids, then a wad of gauze, then she wraps me in plastic gauze, flattens
both my chests like I’ve seen in Boys Don’t
Cry, a girl who wanted to be a boy would flatten her breasts. I laugh at my
disfigurement. The doctor orders the nurse to put my bra on. What for?! To hold
the pack of ice over my wound. I’m to keep my bra on 24 hours. What a grotesque
joke. I crawl home and don’t want to see anybody, don’t want to talk to
anybody. Enough stories about breast cancer. I can’t. I can’t.
The ice pad is just water now, I throw it away, they warn you not to refreeze
it, you can get frostbites. And the few hours of light pass, the kids in the
apartment building play boisterously. I sleep thru the night. Next day I don’t want
to go grocery shopping with my misshapen bust. I count the hours and at 2 pm I take
off my bra. The aftercare sheet says take off the gauze after 24 hours. Which one?
The plastic wrapped around me? I call for clarifications. It’s Friday afternoon,
no one answers. I call the gynecologist’s office, the woman who deals with breast
cancer pep talk. She is not comfortable to advise me which gauze I should
remove. I should go to the emergency room. I won’t. I just want to know what
gauze means to her. The aftercare sheet doesn’t say anything about the plastic
flattening strip or the wad of gauze, which can I remove? She’s not
comfortable. Alright, I wish you a nice weekend.
I take the flat-chestner off. I have red grooves all around my chest from its
margins cutting into my flesh. I remove the band aids holding the wad of gauze.
A layer of my skin comes off with its glue. My breast is purple. It stays
purple for ten days. Ten days I walk about in a daze. I look at women’s breasts
bouncing in the street. I applaud a low cut. God for you girl, good for you. I’d
like to hug women for what they have to suffer. I start informing people I have
purple breasts. My friend in the suburbs whose daughter suffers from breast
cancer says at times the best policy is to stay away from the hospital as fast
as one can just run. I’m waiting, waiting for the biopsy results. I sit next to
Yusuf on the corner and tell them I have purple breasts. He is stunned mute. I point
a baseball cap and I tell him my breast looks like that cap, purple is my
breast. He tells me Ramadan starts in a week. I show my purple breast to my mom
over Skype. She clarifies that my cousin died from pulmonary cancer and her
grandmother on her father’s side had cancer. There’s no cancer in our family. And
if the radiology center didn’t call me yet, that meant good news. Were it to be
cancer they would have called by now. In a few more days the gynecologist
calls, not malign, follow up mammogram in six months.
My breast is now a patchwork of purple and yellow. My scars from the plastic
bandage healed. There is a large lump in the depth of my breast now the
gynecologist says it shall heal. I still can’t stop my walkabouts. I hit the
flea markets on a Saturday. I haven’t been to Hell’s Kitchen market in years. I
know vaguely where’s located but not the exact street. A guy sits on a milk
crate on a street corner. I kindly ask him if he knows where the Hell’s Kitchen
flea market is. He says he’s not from New York, but my boobs are gorgeous. I laugh.
Usually they praise my green eyes or how I match my clothing, and I take the
compliments kindly. But if they pick on my body parts I turn into a vicious
This time, I laugh and I say, ‘Thank you! Not only are they nice, but they are
health and are all mine.’
July 6th, 2014