My latest mammogram report noted the “architectural deformity” in my right breast. I guess it won’t be showcased in Architectural Digest any time soon.
Reading one’s own medical records is like peeking into another’s private diary in which he or she gossips about you. It’s strange to read someone else’s words about the most private aspects of your life. Some of it is disconcerting, but your eyes are fixed. It’s a page turner. It’s about you, after all, and yet it’s written in such a detached manner, like a butcher might speak of a dead cow that hangs in a row of dead cows in the slaughterhouse.
Still, I appreciate the peek inside my own breast. Whereas the mirror tells me one story, the report allowed me to look through the window of a gated house and glimpse the inside. My medical records tell me I’ve been snipped, clipped and burned. My interior bears the marks of surgery and radiation. I didn’t need the commentary about the external view. Architectural deformity? I suppose you could say that.
My surgeon is my architect. I think he did a grand job of excising the 2.54 cm. mass from my breast. In a post-surgery followup, he viewed the final result and agreed. “Beautiful!”
“You’re the sculptor,” I said.
Good wood,” he replied. “I’m only as good as the wood I work with.”
This was no hormone-driven, second-base transgression and this elderly gentleman was no dirty old man. He was my surgeon, pleased with the result much like a sculptor admires his finished work.
Deformed? Perhaps to the paint-by-number technicians who viewed and interpreted my mammogram and acknowledged that mine had been altered to deviate from the norm. Personally, I see a breast that is cancer-free. When I gaze in the mirror and see the slash lines – one on the top quadrant of my breast and the other curling in my armpit – I see a historical site in my personal history where cancer once was, but is no more.
I’m not blind. I also see the gash, the dent, the way the flesh folds and caves in. I’m aware of the disparity in size between the two sides. It’s no Van Gogh or Monet, but to me it’s the most beautiful sight in the world. That’s because my “deformity” is a daily reminder of the malignant mass that is no more because it died instead of me.
I don’t need a medical report to tell me my right breast bears little resemblance to its sister on the left. If they are twins, surely they’re not identical.
Like mountain ranges where smaller hills stand among the taller, no one says they are misshapen because they vary in size and texture. The fact that they are asymmetrical makes them more interesting and beautiful as the lines jut and intersect and sweep against the other.
When I awoke from surgery, the first thing I saw was my surgeon’s face. “Eileen,” he said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but a malignancy was found in one of your lymph nodes. I know you don’t want chemotherapy, but I don’t see any way around it.” At that moment I had no cares about chemotherapy. Only one thing was on my mind. I looked at Dr. Sievers through glazed and groggy eyes and said, “Thank you for saving my life.”
This is why when I stand before the mirror and my scars remind me of what was but is no more, I see a sight so exquisite, I can’t help but smile at its beauty.