by Margaret Brinton
Pink fluid dripping from her nipple was Francine’s only indication of something amiss. A swift diagnosis soon followed, and three weeks later a surgeon lopped off her left breast.
As the fifty-two-year-old divorcee struggled for consciousness in the cold recovery room, a nurse was hesitantly assuring her, “Your vital signs are strong. You’ll rest more comfortably in your own bed.” And then, as if no trauma whatsoever had transpired, the nurse guided Francine into the loose garments worn to Admissions that very morning, and abiding by hospital administration policy, issued the orders to send her home.
Emotionally jarred and still suffering anesthesia’s effects, Francine suppressed her apprehensions until an orderly had assisted her into the sanctuary of her best friend Josie’s waiting car where she tearfully pleaded, “Don’t drive away just yet,” and Josie reached over with a loving embrace to allow Francine’s total release.
That first night passed in merciful exhaustion under cozy, flannel sheets and down-filled quilt with a plump pillow under her left arm to relieve her wounded chest and help support that awful, drainage tube. It had been cancer surgery, no more and no less, but Francine’s mind was strong; so, not surprisingly, “A New Day!” was her conviction when she awakened to California sunshine flowing into her room the following morning.
She had allowed herself those tears with Josie the day before, but she now rose from her bed determinedly and with just a little help from her friend to slip a fleecy vest over paisley pajamas, she shuffled from her room and out the door of the ground-floor apartment into the small, private courtyard which she subsequently referred to as The Healing Place.
There, on a padded patio chair, for the month of recovery advised by her surgeon, Francine took a daily dose of sunlight, surrounded by potted plants of life-affirming energy where the radiant warmth from her courtyard’s rustic, Spanish tiles further emboldened her.
Day by day, her efforts towards restoration brought relief to her injured flesh and solace to her soul. Claiming all rights and dignity as a survivor, Francine chose optimism as her outlook and found empowerment in the awesome environment of The Healing Place. In the hours spent in that bright courtyard, she enjoyed wonderment and hope and inspiration from the gentle call of a mourning dove bringing reassurance that all was well, indeed. Calmed by the fragrance which emanated from the blooms of a lavender shrub and enlivened by the visitations of a small wren that gleaned from a little garden plot, Francine regained her center.
Refusing to accept her mastectomy as a defeat, she embraced her deep reservoir of faith and strength, resolving to live well beyond the experience, going forth into a new phase of life with gratitude for each daily breath.