I realized when my Mother calls, I hold my left breast. It’s automatic. My fingers slip into the caress of warm arm pit while palm rests on the curve of flesh right above my areola and I give a subtle squeeze. I realized it a few days ago while sitting outside lingering in the sunlight passing by when the phone rang and I answered and then began to instantly hold myself. Then yesterday I called her and did it again – fingers searching for harbor above my own heart beat while we chatted. Her left breast was removed due to “the cancer” as we have come to talk about it, joking about how she may have gotten “the cancer”, but she has never gotten “the diabetes”.
I smile at this automaton action of daughter holding her own breast. At first, I thought maybe me holding my left breast was me protecting myself. Those studies from researchers “fighting the cause” to stop this disease, tells us that it’s genetic and now I am at a higher risk when just in January I was a low risk. My statistics changed when hers did. My mother also points it out, encouraging her daughter to demand mammograms now from the doctor. She wants to protect me not from “the cancer” but from the chemo, radiation, and the body being abused for the sake of salvation, if not caught on time. Ironically, hers was caught on time, having had annual mammograms since 38 years old due to fibrous cells in her breast. From one year to the next she had nothing to then something and the doctors quickly biopsy the tiny mass. Defined malignant they scheduled the surgery and within four weeks from biopsy to surgery the mass exponentially grew. They had to remove the entire breast and lymph nodes since sentinel cells were found their too. Invasive is what they call it.
I do not live in the same town as my mother. I’m a bird who left the nest and flew away to find my own journey far from familial identity. I’ve spent my time manifesting my own destiny away from my small home town. It’s the same old story of little bird who couldn’t sing for being too different, so she went in search of a new flock that dug her tunes produced. Chirp chirp. As flight goes, no matter how far you go, until you Dorothy up and know the heart first grew in the backyard of your own history, you’re never really free to fly unfettered. The cancer has been removed and the chemo has scorched her body and daughter bird has been called to come home.
I won’t get into the details of this story home, that’s for later. For the sake of this part of the journey I will say that distance is hard when I want to be there for her. I wish I could make her shakes of wheatgrass to help the body through the bruising of treatment, rub lineament on the blistering soles of her feet; shop for beautiful silk kerchiefs to adorn her head (her preference). I wish she’d let me too, but as these stories go sometimes there are bruises that form in the umbilical chord passed from daughter to daughter to daughter until an ulcer grows and even though the chord has been cut, it leaves Momma and baby egg at an impasse to understand each others motivations, and my Mother and I still struggle to be safe in each others spaces – which brings me back to the epiphany of my story. Though this body of mine is my own story, when she calls I think I find myself holding my own breast as an act of holding her. She gave me my heart beat buried under the tear drop shaped flesh curving my precipice, our histories tethered in love beats. This is me holding her, to the best of my abilities when she calls, and I feel empowered in love for the unconscious action.