Good Enough

Three weeks after my mastectomy, I traveled south.
I slung my carry-on bag crosswise over my body
and jostled my way through the airport, the bag
in front of me, to form a barrier, protecting my incision.
I let my arm rest on the bag,
to take the tension off the shoulder.
My wound was so fresh I still had to tend it every night.
But it was healed enough that I could swim
in the pool, alone in the cool water,
too cold for other swimmers,
a towel slung over the flat side
the side with no breast
until I dove in. I was still
self-conscious, even when I was alone.

And then I kayaked out to where
the oysters spat saltwater several feet
into the air as we passed. And I waited
for that phone call. And always
in the back of my mind, what if?
Finally, the call from my oncologist.
The last tests were back.
The numbers were okay–not spectacular,
but good enough. And that’s all you need,
is good enough.
No chemo required. Just pills. He put
the scrip into the system. I could pick them up
when I returned. And then
it was the last day of the trip. I walked
through the farmer’s market, ate cherry tomatoes
from a sack, and saw a bald eagle
soar overhead.
Then I flew home. It would be
good enough.

Carol Scott-Conner is professor and chair emeritus of surgery at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. She writes from her experience as an academic surgeon. Her short pieces and poetry have appeared in Pulse and in literary journals including North Dakota Quarterly, The Intima and The Healing Muse. A perennial student, she has completed the graduate certificate program in narrative health care at Lenoir-Rhyne University, where she is currently enrolled in the MFA program in creative writing. She lives in Iowa City with her husband and serves as fiction editor for The Examined Life Journal of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

About the Poem

“We aspire to the perfect result in medicine, but sometimes ‘good enough’ is all you can achieve. This poem attempts to convey that ‘good enough’ may often be just that: good enough.”


3 thoughts on “Good Enough”

  1. When my cancer was diagnosed they worried about several strange findings. 22 years later they hardly matter. If I could give myself advice from the future, don’t worry about “what if”.

  2. Good enough indeed. Better than expected in so many cases where hope is but a glimmer. Well said Dr Carol, mentor, colleague and friend.

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