“Let’s have a look then,” Ellen the plastic surgery nurse says. I’m sitting on the bed in her office. Peeling off my top, vest top and sports bra, handing my softie to Mum, I turn towards her.
“That looks fine,” Ellen says. “Let’s get these dressings off.” She starts to peel the plastic edge of one of the dressings and it stings as it pulls the skin and I flinch. “OK, I’ll start at the inside corner then,” Ellen says, pulling at the corner in the middle of where my cleavage used to be.
Once the dressings are off, I can see neat scars, uninfected wounds. Everything joins up where it should. It seems to be healing well.
“Wow, it looks much better than I thought it would,” I say.
“They’ve done a good job,” Mum says, looking at my chest.
“So can I get my new implant in a couple of weeks?” I ask Ellen.
“Don’t rush it. We need everything to settle down,” she says. “I’m just going to put some tape over the scars,” she says to Mum. “It’s waterproof,” she turns back to me. “You can have a bath: just don’t soak for too long.”
“Do you really have to get another implant?” Mum says. “Wouldn’t it be better to stay out of hospital for a bit?”
“Yes, I do,” I say, feeling the tears welling up. “I want to look like my normal self. I never complain about any of this but I’m really upset about this particular thing.” A surge of frustration overwhelms me. How can you not be on my side, I think.
“Don’t cry darling,” Mum says.
“I’m not crying,” I say, through gritted teeth.
We get lost on the way out of the hospital, as usual. Walking through the car park, not speaking to each other, eventually we arrive back at the car. Mum hands me her book. Looking up, my gaze is caught by a flash of black and white in the tree opposite.
“Look, Mum, woodpecker, up there,” I say. He sits on a branch high above us, his distinctive huge-beaked profile obvious as he rests: black and white with that signature red flash. A greater spotted woodpecker, right there in the hospital car park. Mum puts her arm round me and I rest my head on her shoulder as we watch him.