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Tag: breast cancer

The Eye of the Beholder

One winter morning in 2020, I was called to the reception desk to meet my patient Esther and her husband Hertzel. Some time earlier, I’d asked Esther–somewhat awkwardly–if she’d be willing to talk to me about her experience of being diagnosed with and treated for advanced breast cancer, and she’d willingly agreed. Today was the day.

Eighteen months earlier, Esther, in her sixties, had come to my hospital’s ER at her rabbi’s urging.

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Healing

When I thought I might die,
not eventually, but very
soon, I treated me more kindly,

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Smells Like Love

The dank, loamy smell fills my nostrils. I turn my head, but cannot escape the odor. It emanates from me, this nauseating scent of sickness and neglect.

It is five days since the surgery, five days since my right breast and multiple lymph nodes were removed. I cannot bathe or shower.

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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.

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Microcalcifications

A cluster, I say,
so small – see? I can cover it
with the tip of my finger. Tiny little
calcifications. I show
you the mammogram.

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At Three O’Clock

Running to make my Tuesday biopsy appointment, I tripped, landing viciously on my hands and knees at the corner of Madison Avenue and 79th. Embarrassed, I was helped up by a gray-haired lady in her eighties. For an instant, I wondered if I’d get to be her age.

Walking into the clinic, I saw my husband, who’d insisted on meeting me there. My beige pants were slightly ripped and bloodstained, my knees tingling and smarting.

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Walnut Shells and BRCA

If I was going to write a poem,
It would be–
It probably shouldn’t be–
About how much I hate the dog.
The way he licks his paws for hours
In the middle of the night
When the baby is no longer crying.

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What If

I undo the front of the cloth gown and step closer to the menacing machine. The female technician gently lifts one of my breasts—usually she begins with the left—onto a cold, flat surface. I shiver as my warm skin reacts to the chilly metal. Then, the top of the machine slowly descends, pushing into the top of my breast, flattening it, and squeezing it until tears form in my eyes. 

“Hold your breath,” the technician states.

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Marla Drawing I Love Women

I Love Women

Marla Lukofsky

About the artist: 

Marla Lukofsky is a standup comedian, inspirational speaker, jazz singer, cancer survivor and writer. Her stories have been published in various narrative medicine journals, including Cell2Soul and Health Story Collaborative. With two TEDx Talks to her credit, Marla continues to share her experiences in the hopes of helping others.

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Third Degree

Susan S. Turner

When I find a lump in my left breast I am stunned. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m immobilized. It takes me several days before I tell my partner, who has to push me into action. I get the referral from my doctor and schedule a mammogram. The radiology practice fits me into their schedule that same week, but I still have several days to sit with the unknown.

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The Vulnerability and Freedom of Nakedness

There are many ways to be naked. There’s physical nakedness, and there’s also the nakedness of feeling vulnerable. When my body and hence my life have been out of control, it has felt like nakedness. When I have had no covering against the elements, whether physical or psychological, I have felt naked.
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Blindsided

Alice Y. Kim

When Teresa showed up forty-five minutes late for her appointment, I sighed. I knew this would disrupt our clinic’s afternoon schedule.

That was nothing unusual, though. The clinic treats large numbers of patients who are undocumented, homeless and uninsured, and many must walk or take public transportation to get here. After seven weeks on rotation here as a third-year medical student, I knew that appointment times were flexible.

As I

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