“Hello Tanya,” my plastic surgeon says, beaming his huge smile. “How are you?”
“It’s been ages,” I say, smiling back at him, sitting at the desk opposite him. “It’s nice to see you.”
“Have you been keeping well?” He says.
“So, I’ve got to have some more surgery,” I say.
“Yes, I’ve been talking to your surgeon about what we’re going to do,” he says. “Let’s have a look.”
Going behind the curtain, sitting on the bed, I take my top and training bra off. “Don’t know what’s happened to Mum,” I say. “She was signing me in downstairs and then…”
“I’ll go and have a look for her,” the nurse says.
The plastic surgeon has a look at my chest, furrowing his brow. “OK, you can get dressed,” he says.
“They got Tanya’s name wrong at the reception,” Mum says, entering the room, followed by the nurse.
“We knew we were expecting you, don’t worry,” he says, beaming at Mum. “So, I’ve been talking to Tanya’s surgeon, and we’re going to do a skin-sparing mastectomy on the left side and put in an expander and…”
“Not an implant?” I say.
“We’ll change it for an implant later,” he says. “And we won’t chop out your back muscle this time, there’s a new matrix made of pig skin that we’ll put in there instead…”
“Oh,” I say. “Haven’t heard of this and…”
“Or we can use cow,” he says. “But we’ve spoken to a Rabbi about it and as the cells have been removed and it’s just a matrix, it’s fine.”
“It would be fine anyway,” Mum says. “If it’s to save her life.”
“So why is that better than using my back muscle?” I say.
“Remember how long it took your back to heal up last time,” he says, looking at me. “And all those times that we had to drain the fluid.”
“Oh, yes,” I say, a memory surfacing of my three drain bottles hanging off me. And another one: being unable to lift my right arm until after ten physiotherapy sessions.
“So,” he says. “We’ll put an expander in your left side and at the same time we’ll take that bit of skin off your right side, where the cancer flared up and…”
“What about the expander in my right side?” I say. “Will you change that for a proper implant?”
“The MRI scans don’t like it,” Mum says. “Because of the magnet.”
“We’ll do that later,” he says. “We’ll change both the expanders for implants later. Any questions?”
“It’s not going to be before Christmas is it?” Mum says, taking hold of my hand.
“Could be,” he says. “Just need to find a day when we’re both available.”
“We don’t want you to be tired,” Mum says, sounding concerned.
“Yeah: they might chop off the wrong bit,” I say.
“You’ve hardly got any bits left to chop off, Tanya,” Mum says.
The attached photo is a painting of the fluffy monster, executed by Mum’s brilliant next door neighbour.
Happy Friday everyone!
*2012. By Attica Locke. Murder mystery set in Louisiana.