1. Twenty seven days. Feverish, I ask the doctor why. He looks at my notes, yellow folder telling him nothing and everything.

It will pass, he says.

Everything passes.

Take paracetamol, he says.

Universal panacea. Won’t it harm the baby?

It’s your first, you’re bound to be anxious.

  1. Anxiety knows no bounds as I lie there and sweat.

Do you feel the first lump, or do I?

It’s just your glands. You must be fighting off an infection.

Late night screen glows with possible diagnoses, cancer never far from mind.

My stomach grows, skin stretched taut, and I daren’t ask.

We … just … need … the … months … to  … pass.

And one day the lumps have gone anyway and I don’t think again, awash in breastfeeding.

Anti-apoptotically, your host cells persist and replicate.

Pro-apoptosis effector proteins, are disrupted,

Conformational change,

Proteins stymied.

The host will eat itself,

T.gondii triumphant.

  1. It’s amazing how quickly time passes with one young child, then a second.
  1. The first trace is a splash of yellow, bordered with black on the glowing red-orange of the back of his eye. Technology is marvellous, the doctor says as she shows me on the screen.

Can you cut it out, I ask.

It’s been there for years. He has two eyes. If you hadn’t had his eyes examined he might never have noticed.

Perhaps we should have remained ignorant. We were never meant to see the inside of our eyes.

  1. Is it obvious to everyone else? Omniscience is inhuman. Who knows?

I didn’t. And if I had known what could I have done?

I’m up late on the internet again.

Raw meat, soiled fruit, catshit? Nausea comes, years too late.

  1. Late nights are typical of teens, I read. In fact, it’s against nature to wake them early.

Let them sleep.

It’s normal for boys to become uncommunicative.

Of course it is.

It’s not normal to see things, hear things, that no-one else can perceive.

By then it’s too late.

Knife descends, repeat, and I wish I could have cut it out years ago.


Jump cut: The Seven Ps


Rule 1: Powerful

As surgeon, you have power over me. I have power over my body, up to a point, after which my body has power over me. Do I wait and see if it will rule me kindly, a benign dictator, or do I pre-empt the battle. Combat zone: my breast. No-one announces the date battle will start. Shall we make plans to invade?

Rule 2: Private

My health is private, yet everyone wants to talk about it. Even Angelina was allowed to do it in private, only talking to the world once she was neatly sewn up, pert and perfect again. Would they feel they had the right to discuss it if I was having an abortion? Yet when I consider having my breasts cut off everyone has a view.

Rule 3: Painful

My pain is my own. If I think about this for long enough, I feel you cut into me, then I wait for my skin to heal, so that you can cut into me again. My skin cringes in anticipation. Your nurse was kind as she explained my options for pain relief. Of course, rather than embrace this particular pain, I could wait, but hope is no longer a viable option.

Rule 4: Performative

I can tell that you love to perform, and I’m grateful. One of us needs to be enthusiastic about this transaction. You explain the risks and benefits, hedged promises rolling off your tongue and over my head, a performance you’ve given many times before. I have forgotten my lines. ‘I de … I dis … I die …’ I stand there, hoping that the curtain will fall.

Rule 5: Political

It’s not just about me, he says. I’m fortunate to live in an age when I have the choice. (That’s when I end up reading Frances Burney.) Many women in many countries would give their … their what, I ask, their left breast? And their right one? In order to be able to choose their fate. The time and date at which battle commences. Ovaries too? Hell, take the lot!

Rule 6: Pissed

I’m pissed. So fucking angry, and who do I shout at? My mother, her mother? Generations of dead women who would have, who have given their lives for what I know. Take it back, I want to scream. I don’t want to know, I don’t want to choose.

Rule 7: Priceless

It comes down to money, doesn’t it? The whole fucking health care system, and because I have a job and insurance I have a choice, a choice that I don’t want. How much do you charge for bilateral prophylactic mastectomy, four nights in a private room, and another stay for reconstruction? How much do you get paid? Do you every wonder if you should have chosen another branch of medicine, another career? Or is it much clearer to you than it is to me, what good you do?