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by Katy Hall

Whenever I see a picture of a radical mastectomy, I remember my mother. These days the radicals always compare favorably with the butcher job done to her in the early 60's when they felt they had to remove as much chest and arm muscle as possible. Scars these days seem almost delicate but I remember her courage to choose life, of course, and to live a few more years with this disabled body to sustain her family with a love beyond bounds, and the ungrumbling acceptance she chose when faced with her new limitations. It reminds me of her sense of humor.

She showed me her scar when she was just out of hospital. I was shocked, of course, being only eight, but then I grew accustomed to the one breasted mother. She never wore a prosthesis at home, and we soon learned not to lay a heavy head on her right side which stayed tender until she died. She didn't want to pay for an expensive prosthesis so she got the cheapest device available to wear to church. It was more like a plastic bubble filled with air that she tucked into her bra and tried fruitlessly to keep from floating up to her chin. Memories I have of her wrestling that thing back in to place when she thought no one was looking, no one except me. So, for me, a woman with one breast seems about the most natural thing in the world. Not that I chose to join the ranks of the one breasted when I was given the choice. Amazons were said to remove one breast to improve their archery marksmanship, but I'm glad to keep as much of myself as possible.

Katy rediscovered her love of writing in Sharon Bray's writing classes for cancer survivors. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband and two children.