Rocket Science Meet Mammogram
by Patricia Wentzel
My mammogram looked like a picture from the Hubble telescope, spangled tissue in a slate-colored field with a bright white nebula surrounding a dark core. That white was reminiscent of gardenias, the habit of silence, joy, lanterns, Japanese wedding kimonos, the highest notes sung by a boy soprano, casket linings,
sun-bleached thigh bones, the old male doctor my insurance sent me to and the old male surgeon he referred me to, the stubble on the surgeon’s golf-tanned cheeks. He made me wait a week after the biopsy to tell me it was cancer. He knew when he cut my breast open that day. The pathology report used the word necrotic. My breast was
rotten in the center like an Envy apple, perfect skin, worm in the middle. When attacked from an unexpected quarter, fall back, regroup. Confusion is to be expected when an ally becomes an enemy. When the surgeon told me he had scheduled me for a mastectomy the day before my thirty-third birthday, ten days away, I wept a little. I had not yet
learned the art of weeping dry eyed. Ten things you can do in ten days: declutter your closets, hear a survivor tell you what bothers her the most is the way her armpit looks now, clean out your refrigerator, make a will, withdraw from your college classes, tell your friends, look up every word
in your pathology report, give up on getting a second opinion, give away your dog, make tapioca pudding from scratch to use up the eggs. Okay, eleven things in ten days. Pack both your sex toys in a box, tape it shut, and mark it To Be Thrown Away if I Die. The surgeon
rebuked me. Why are you crying? You’re not losing a leg! Insert shame here, insert small rebellions, insert a dyspeptic old man crushing them. Steel gray is the color of helplessness. The color of I know what’s best for you, of how dare you question me is goose poop green. There was
a great crater in my breast closed with stitches that looked like they belonged on Frankenstein. Clearly, he had expected to just lop the thing off later, why be tidy and neat? Cut off, surrounded, surrender becomes the only viable solution. I gave in, agreed, skirted a black hole on my way out.
Patricia Wentzel lives in Sacramento, California at the confluence of two rivers and a satisfying life. She is a survivor of all kinds of stuff like all of us. She has been published in Passionfruit Review, The Monterey Poetry Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association and others. She has work forthcoming in Braving the Body Anthology, The Tule Review, and Inverted Syntax.