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Tag: breast cancer

Under the Microscope

I was walking into my kitchen with an armful of groceries when my cell phone rang. It took a second to register the caller’s name: Dr. James. The surgeon I’d met two weeks earlier.

I wasn’t expecting this call. My biopsy had occurred only a few days ago, and I’d been told that, because of the Christmas holiday, the results would be delayed.

Why is she calling?

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“Am I going to die?”
Little sister, in recovery, hair splayed behind her like wings,
eyes round.
“No,” I say, “they’ll fix it.”
Twelve years ago.
She was 47, then.

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Into the Unknown

On March 17, 2015, I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Initially it was thought that I would need only a lumpectomy and radiation, but the biopsy changed everything.

The pathology report said that the tumor was HER2-positive and estrogen/progesterone positive. The HER2 protein makes the cancer more aggressive, so I would need, in addition to surgery and radiation, eighteen weeks of standard chemotherapy, a year of two other infused drugs and a hormone-blocking oral

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

as if I were my own child,
the girl I was, and the woman
I am, all melded

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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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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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