Breast Cancer Answers Art Gallery

SURGERY

I'm being cut up and served like a turkey,
The main course.
I'm not a person
I'm a piece of meat.

Preparing for surgery is like preparing for a meal.
The table is set with the equipment:
scalpel, suction, retractors, stapler.
knives, forks, spoons, napkins,
swabs, mop-up cloths, bandages;
The wine glasses are filled with my blood.
There are ingredients to be measured, the seasonings to be mixed:
the IV solutions of medication, anesthesia, the glucose,
the oxygen.
Additions.

Subtractions:
My breast is placed into a pail by the side of the table,
Surrounded by 21 nodes.

Actors and Action:
The robot-like attendant is cleaning up the mess.
The anesthesiologist holds the oxygen.
She is human kind.
Another nurse cleans the surgeon's knife of blood,
still dripping from the slaughter.
It is the knife used for ritual sacrifice.
The surgeon, too, is covered with blood.
He is not like Pontius Pilate.
He takes responsibility.
He said to me, "It will be a challenge,"
When I asked about the scar.
I said, "What do you mean by that?"
He said, "Because your breasts are so large."

I feel captured, unprotected, exposed, attacked,
A mutilated victim,
Centrally casted in this drama.
Yet for the most part of this ACT 1--inert.
Silent--unmoving--anesthically unesthetic--
In my anxiety, I have made myself believe I am being acted upon,
At the mercy of those doing the surgery.

My mouth has an "X" scratched on it,
Because I know
I am not "supposed" to feel like that.

I signed the papers.
I agreed.
I knew that the surgery would take place.
That act acknowledges my agreement (not my acquiescence--for I
did agree---freely agreed with the choice, with the act).
However, I did not preview the production notes or the script.

Yet from past promotions and present day preaching I think I know
How my part ought to go---
I'm "supposed" to be in control of my feelings,
But I'm not.

I'm supposed" to be the little angel--
you see her rising there--above my body--all light, blond and
ready to be your valentine--that's (NOT) me.
I'm dark haired scared.
I'm my body in terror and PAIN.

In the operating theater
Walls are cold blue
A sterile temperature field

Pthalo green for the surgery team
In the ninth grade masked medics became sea green creatures
In the scene
Rushing me down the hall on waves of pain-appendectomy
Emergency. Repeats an obscenely clean, but nauseating
Waves of lysol green--
That was my last five surgeries played out upon the screen.

The insertion of the I.V. in my hand veins was a disaster.
My veins collapsed and were nowhere to be found.
So next they tried a middle sized vein but it was too late.
I got sick and faint during these re-stickings.
Off to a bad start.

He is looking away from me,
Perhaps he chooses not to see pain.
Clearly, this Nigerian man does not wish to discuss it
Or death with me.
His concern is to cut bad things out,
To do, what he considers a complete job.
He must limit his focus when performing--
And he is very good at the cutting part.
But to look would mean he'd have to see
The operation isn't over for me.
It is just beginning.

I thought it was over, when it was over.
(Isn't that how it goes?)
I had a very bad time in the recovery room,
I don't remember that.
The next four days, Percodan kept the worst pain at bay.
Relief that the surgery was over--
Did not die or have some terrible complication occur--
Attention and support of family and friends--
Kept me in sort of a manic state.
Exhausted from "entertaining" visitors,
Hospital activity and noise,
Worry about whether I would be allowed
The advantage of the final weapon, chemotherapy,
(In compliance with the recently released NCI clinical alert)
I managed to make my hospital stay
Everything, but recuperative.

Thankfully, I had wakened from surgery.

I had not wakened to what I was now to face
as its result.
I had no clue when the visiting hospital social worker
stopped by,
"How do you feel about what has just happened?"
I could not recognize,
Could not let myself recognize these feelings,
Until I began to paint them five months later.

Mixed Media
© 1990, Betsy Noorzay


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