I Promise You’ll Look Better After
I slide into the fluffy terry cloth robe and admire the mist clinging to the buildings of downtown Vancouver. As I wait for him, I pick up an In Style magazine and leaf through the glossy pages of the December issue. I ignore the fluttering in my stomach and get lost in my desire for the stylish clutches and killer heels in the Holiday Fashion and Accessories spread.
A light knock on the door announces Dr. L’s arrival. I pull the robe a little tighter and flash him a fake smile as I take in his chiseled features and brown hair. (I had expected grey hair to go along with his reputation as one of the top plastic surgeons in Vancouver). He shakes my hand firmly, introduces me to his resident sidekick and banters with me about the craziness of the holiday season. I tell him that with chemo only two weeks away, I plan to eat an entire cheese ball in one sitting and then alternate between red wine and rum and eggnogs every night. He laughs and congratulates me for living in the moment.
With the pleasantries behind us, he nods for me to loosen the belt and slide the robe down my arms. As the cool air hits me, I am surprised by the heat that floods my cheeks. I thought I had left my modesty in the O.R. during my first surgery, but the softness of my robe and the gorgeous city view have thrown me off my patient game.
I suck in my stomach and sit as tall as I can while he appraises my breasts with a long intent stare. Then, he pulls out a green marker and raises one eyebrow. I nod and the jiffy smell takes me back to the much simpler days of standing in front of my parent’s white board with my sister, fighting over whose turn it was to use the blue pen.
He makes a few comments to the resident in their secret doctor slang before he turns to me and says, ‘Well, Terri, I have to tell you that your breasts are deceptively wide and you have a significant fold.’
Now I wish he would go back to the medical jargon. Why does he need to tell me that I have wide, droopy breasts? Couldn’t he keep that information to himself? I want to pull the robe up to my neck and seal it shut while I tell him to save the criticism for his paying clients. But I let him continue.
‘The good news is that you will look amazing when I am done with you. With your youthful skin and slim build, I can give you perfect breasts for the rest of your life.’
Now I want to jump off the table and swallow him in a hug. But given my compromising attire, I settle for my first genuine smile in days. He says that we will plan to do the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery 6-8 weeks after chemo ends. He wishes me luck with my poison injections and tells me not to worry about the surgery because he will take excellent care of me. I believe him.
Since that day, a year ago, I have had my moments of rage at the impostors under my pectoral muscles that pretend to be breasts. But, in that moment, I couldn’t see all of the challenges ahead. I simply wanted to celebrate. Cancer had finally become about something I would gain in addition to everything I had to lose…
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