It was only a few weeks after my surgery, and I went to Dr. Belt's office for a checkup. It was just after my first chemotherapy treatment.
My scar was still very tender. My arm was numb underneath. This whole set of unique and weird sensations was like having a new roommate to share the two-bedroom apartment formerly known as my breasts - now lovingly known as "the breast and the chest."
As usual, I was taken to an examination room to have my blood drawn, again - a terrifying process for me, since I'm so frightened of needles.
I lay down on the examining table. I'd worn a big plaid flannel shirt and a camisole underneath. It was a carefully thought out costume that I hoped others would regard as a casual wardrobe choice. The plaid camouflaged my new chest, the camisole protected it and the buttons on the shirt made for easy medical access.
Ramona entered the room. Her warm sparkling smile was familiar, and stood out in contrast to my fears. I'd first seen her in the office a few weeks earlier. She wasn't my nurse on that day, but I remember her because she was laughing. She laughed in deep, round and rich tones. I remember wondering what could be so funny behind that medical door. What could she possibly find to laugh about at a time like this? So I decided she wasn't serious enough about the whole thing and that I would try to find a nurse who was. But I was wrong.
This day was different. Ramona had taken my blood before. She knew about my fear of needles, and she kindly hid the paraphernalia under a magazine with a bright blue picture of a kitchen being remodeled. As we opened the blouse and dropped the camisole, the catheter on my breast was exposed and the fresh scar on my chest could be seen.
She said, "How is your scar healing?"
I said, "I think pretty well. I wash around it gently each day." The memory of the shower water hitting my numb chest flashed across my face.
She gently reached over and ran her hand across the scar, examining the smoothness of the healing skin and looking for any irregularities. I began to cry gently and quietly. She brought her warm eyes to mine and said, "You haven't touched it yet, have you?" And I said, "No."
So this wonderful, warm woman laid the palm of her golden brown hand on my pale chest and she gently held it there. For a long time. I continued to cry quietly. In soft tones she said, "This is part of your body. This is you. It's okay to touch it." But I couldn't. So she touched it for me. The scar. The healing wound. And beneath it, she touched my heart.Then Ramona said, "I'll hold your hand while you touch it." So she placed her hand next to mine, and we both were quiet. That was the gift that Ramona gave me.
That night as I lay down to sleep, I gently placed my hand on my chest and I left it there until I dozed off. I knew I wasn't alone. We were all in bed together, metaphorically speaking, my breast, my chest, Ramona's gift and me.