Mike Needel



The Scar

It doesn’t seem real. We found a lump. A flurry of doctor visits and examinations. We are told: “We need to do a biopsy.” First time was a cyst. This time it comes back positive. Cancer. A bad report. The “C” word. Death. Everyone knows cancer leads to death. What do we do? Life cut short. Despair. We talk with a surgeon. It has to come out. A lumpectomy? No, the mass is too big. Mastectomy? Yes, the whole breast has to be removed. Some lymph nodes have to come out as well. What stage are we in? Will we need chemo and radiation? No answers. Fear of the process. Images of chemo. No hair. Throwing up. Pain. Poison to kill poison. We do not want to go through that. Have to wait until the full lab tests are back after the removal. No options. It has to be cut out. Schedule the surgery. Two days later. In the hospital. Pre-op. Papers signed. The long list of things that could go wrong. More fear. Finally ready. Drugs to go to sleep. Kiss goodbye. I love you and will be there when you wake up. Waiting…Waiting…Waiting. Finally, the doctor comes out. Everything went fine. We got it…maybe. Don’t know for sure. Two days in the hospital. Lab reports back next week. More waiting. Life and death still out of our control. We are finally home. Drain tubes. Pain control. Check for infection. Eat a little. Sleep. Friends visit. Sympathy and comfort. They are so sorry. Three days home. We need a shower. Careful, don’t pull out the drain tubes. I see the scar where the breast used to be. It’s longer than I imagined. She sees herself for the first time in the mirror. None of the doctors or nurses or booklets or websites talk about how to prepare for that instant. It’s bad. Tears. Sorrow. Sadness. Part of her womanhood is gone. I want to say something comforting…It comes to me: “I didn’t marry a boob!” Smiles through the tears. That’s what I wanted. Somehow we know it’s going to be OK. A week goes by. Follow up appointment with surgeon. Pull the drain tubes. Heeling nicely. Small talk. Please just tell us the results. Final report. Completely negative…stage one, we got it all! Thank God. Elation. Joy. Relief. The nightmare is over. Hard to believe it’s only been 4 weeks from the day of the first cancer report. Is that all? Seems like much longer. Is it real? Has to be…There is the scar.