Goodbye

May 13, 2009

I need to say goodbye to some old friends. In an earlier blog, I wrote about how I love long goodbyes, but we haven’t much time to say our peace. The surgery is scheduled for early Friday morning. The surgeon and the surrounding nursing staff will be the only ones to see us part, but do they know? Will they pay tribute?

When I first met you I was more annoyed than excited about your arrival. My mother cried and declared me a woman. I still felt very much like a tom-boy, only now I had two sore little lumps sticking from my shirt. In her enthusiasm, Mother rushed me off to buy bras. They were itchy and hot.

After I told my three children that I was having a mastectomy, they asked if we could bury my bras in the back yard, next to Hamham, our hamster that passed away last August. I think he was itchy and hot too. Sorry Mom, but somehow burying the bras at the end of this journey is far more pleasing to me than the horror I felt at having to start wearing them in the first place.

Boys seemed overly fascinated with my two new friends. During recess in the fifth grade, Jimmy Fenster asked if I had ever played Tune in Tokyo. When I answered no, he grabbed both my nipples and proceeded to twist them like radio dials while chanting “de-de-de-de-tune-in Tokyo, are you there?” He ran off giggling. I was humiliated. Some time later I pulled the same prank on my little sister. I should apologize.

During the summer of 1994, I was an archaeology student working in Syria. While surveying at a historical site I was approached by a gaggle of teenage Syrian boys. They had begun to surround me and just as I started to feel uneasy at their sudden attention, one of them reached right out and grabbed a handful of my breasts. Obviously impressed by his stunt, the others laughed and urged him on. He looked back at his cohorts. I reached into the backyard and let loose a right hook that met his grinning jaw at exactly the moment he turned back toward me. He lifted a little into the air before he fell straight to the ground. He was humiliated. I did not apologize.

After observing the incident, the director of our archaeology team rushed me and the entire team of students out of there before the police could be called. He explained with great animation that I could have been sentenced to years in a Syrian jail. I remained unapologetic.

February 10, 1996 was the exact day I fell in love with my breasts. My new born daughter, all pink and slimy and beautiful, latched on to nurse for the very first time in her life. Her soft crown of baby hair tickled my arm. Her warmth and love and neediness entered at my nipple and pierce directly though my heart. It was one of life’s perfect moments.

Three days later, my milk had come in and my boobs were red and swollen and felt as though they were about to burst into flame. I locked myself in the bathroom and told Doug I was not coming out and he would have to figure out how to feed that baby. He and the pediatrician were finally able to convince me that I should come out to care for the baby and that my breasts would eventually return to normal. Friends sometimes challenge us. Together we nursed three children, including premature twins. I held each twin like a football tucked under my arm and there they slept and nursed, nursed and slept. I thank my breasts for their tireless service during those years. I nursed each of my children for as long as I possibly could, beyond baby-teeth, beyond the onlookers who with their raised eyebrows let me know they thought that child too old for such a thing. My oldest when she was pushing two and a half years, would pop off of one breast after depleting it and from under the nursing blanket demand “other-side” to the amazement and shock of all those within earshot. For me, nursing was pure joy. I was even able to produce enough milk to donate bottles to the N.I.C.U.. There are children in the world I have fed but will never know personally.

Nursing and breast milk are a long path behind us. The present finds us each older and less vibrant. My breasts, my faithful companions, you are both friend and foe, my coveted and my despised. You pushed me into a reluctant womanhood. You helped me to find the confidence and the strength to defend you, and to defend myself. You have brought me the most precious hours of my life and given me the greatest gift, the ability to nourish my babies and others. Those moments will always be cherished.

Goodbye old friends, goodbye. I am called now in another direction. It is my wish that the surgeons and the nurses treat you with respect and the honor you deserve in our departure. Where you once laid upon my chest, you will remain forever in my heart.

To all of my women friends, love your breasts. Do your self-examinations every month. Like an honest friend, they will tell you if something is wrong.

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5 Responses to “Goodbye”

  1. Heather Backs Says:

    What an amazing blog – made me laugh and made me cry. I’ll be thinking of you on Friday morning. Please keep us posted after the surgery – we will all want to know how you are doing and how we can help.

    Love ya Ronnie!

  2. Laura Says:

    great post, ronnie. thank you for sharing your journey with me/everyone. you are truly inspiring. i will be thinking of you and want to check in with you when it’s appropriate/when things calm down a bit. let me know when that might be…

  3. Kim Says:

    Ronnie,

    Our thoughts are with you as you conquer yet another dragon. See my cousin’s blog: http://breastfree.blogspot.com/ and website: http://breastfree.org/

    You are not alone.

  4. Tamara DeLand Says:

    You have become an extraordinary writer, Ronnie, truly. I think that you should consider keeping a detailed journal/blog throughout this process and explore publishing. A lot of women have this story to tell, but few of them will know how. You GO, girl! And let me know if there is a way I can help.

  5. Laura Blair Says:

    As always you approached this with humor and sentiment. I think Tamara is right…you can tell the story of this crazy journey like no one else. You have the talent to bring joy, peace and love to women going through this as well.


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