At first, it was all about the disease.

They said I had breast cancer. I did not cry. I was too busy to cry, too busy not believing; the pains, the spongy lumps I ignored out of fear. Like that faulty tire you simply shun and drive on, telling yourself that it can’t be lethal, can’t be “something”, it can wait. My hubby was caught between shock and fear. He could read my eyes and spirit. He saw that I was yet to believe. But he believed. He did because someone had to. My 5-year old munchkin, Adaora was just that – the chubbiest cutest little munchkin. In her own miniature world of sunny fairytales, she did not have to believe.

But it was not for too long. Whether I believed or not, the sharks soon beckoned. I dove in, alone.

They called it double mastectomy. I called it “nothing”. “Nothing” was void, vague, “nothing” was nothing. And with “nothing” I tried believing. I looked at my bandages and I tried. I looked at my hubby’s entreating eyes, Adaora’s innocent gaze, and family’s airy stares … belief knocked harder on my door.

At first, it was all about the disease.

I was busty, frontally endowed. V-V, they called me – very voluptuous. That attracted hubby to me. He told me so himself on our first date. Symbols; these body parts are nothing but symbols. The long and short penises, wide and narrow vaginas, they are all symbols; the necks, long and stunted; flesh-swallowed collarbones and “in-your-face” collarbones; the ‘water-melon’ breasts and the agbalumo-sized ones; all of them symbols of human being.

My breasts may have held the whistle that kept hubby’s rabbit ears attentive but they did more. They placed me before foul-talking bosses, dragged me in muddy places called ‘favor’ and dumped me at the foot of eyes stuck between screen and real life. My breasts also took me to Adaora’s open, longing lips wet from hungry tears of infancy. Every time Adaora’s lips graced my nipples, my breasts would smile and leap for joy. These symbols.

At first, it was all about the disease,

I couldn’t stare at my chest. No amount of motivation could really prepare me for the post-bandage era. Therefore when it happened, my eyelids kissed themselves shut. It wasn’t so long before they separated and I stared ahead. Hubby was the only one with me. I chose him to be my mirror; I wanted to see my chest in his eyes. And I did.

I saw my bare chest in his invisible flinch, his concealed impulse, and his pleading eyes. He leaned forward and hugged me. “I love you,” he said. I did not cry. I just looked down at my chest – the mass of scars, rumples and folds of angry-looking flat flesh. I love you, he said?

At first, it was all about the disease.

My bras don’t go missing anymore. I shouldn’t notice because I don’t need them. I always wondered what breast pads and stuffed brassieres were about; they are now my bane of existence. But I noticed that my bras don’t go missing anymore.

At the onset of puberty when she only had budding dots on her chest, Adaora would steal my bras. I used to tease her for ”testing, testing and never returning the microphone.” She would giggle and apologize, but she always kept them. Since after “nothing” happened, my bras never go missing anymore.

At first, it was all about the disease … not anymore.

I still want munchkins, don’t worry about breast feeding. I still miss the attention from the world, from eyes. I miss my “crying-out-loud” V-V necks and slits. I miss the green-eyed stares of my insecure gender-mates. I miss the joys of lovemaking as it used to be, the heat of preludes and cool of after-savor on my breasts. I miss breast feeding, the zaps of pleasure from infant gums. I miss my wholesomeness, as I thought I knew it.

Now I want to resume living. First, I believed. Now, I will live. Because after one has believed and accepted as I have done, what comes next? Surely it must be living. So to live, I sought out a spot in my heart. A quiet fertile spot in my soul. And there I sowed the seeds of pain, shame, anger and loss I had been carrying along this whole time. I watered them with love and hope, and with the tiny heartbeats of the new munchkin sleeping in me.

Then I harvested.


By Mirian Okwara

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16 replies added

  1. ifeanyi November 24, 2015 Reply

    Within every man is divinity, purity , peace and love. If you would look inward weeding all selfish and self seeking desires you would inevitably enter in to Heaven bliss even on earth. Nice piece from Miriam Okwara God bless u for sharing…

    • Chisom November 24, 2015 Reply

      Ifeanyi, God bless you for taking time to bless our Mirian. Thank you

  2. JayChioma November 24, 2015 Reply

    I could feel every single emotion: the denial and its accompanying blank, the grief and the acceptance.

    I gotta say this: Chisom Mirian Okwara, you are good at what you do. Don’t ever give it up.

  3. Divicky November 24, 2015 Reply

    Through this journey, different obstacles are encountered some of which alter the physical being. But with self acceptance and belief, the low can always be leveled up. Halla! to the writer,this is a wonderful piece on self rediscovery.

    • Chisom November 24, 2015 Reply

      Aptly summed up. Thanks, bro

  4. Walter November 24, 2015 Reply

    This is such a gut-wrenching piece. As I read it, I thought about Angelina Jolie and my great aunt Nora and every woman out there who’s had to suffer a loss of this significant symbol of womanhood. Cancer is a terrible thing, and when one has love sticking around after its ravages, to help combat the aftershock, that person truly is blessed.

    • Chisom November 24, 2015 Reply

      The strength it requires … I truly hope the men and women still exist among us who can wield it. God bless them, those women like your aunt Nora.

  5. Mirian November 24, 2015 Reply

    Thanks a bunch fam. Ifeanyi, God bless you too. Chioma, I deeply appreciate the encouragement. Divicky, gracias. Walter, Daalu.
    Oga Chisom, thanks for editing.

  6. Yemie November 24, 2015 Reply

    Oh Wow! This is only best imagined but its as real as real can be and a lotta folks have this procedure carried out every single day for the sole purpose that lives would be saved! Losing any part of our being, even the tiniest finger or toe can leave one feeling pretty inadequate and incomplete! At the point where one reaches the end of one’s ropes and hit rock bottom, it may help to remember what ultimately matters in the grand scheme of things…..losing that diseased body part or one’s life altogether! Its one or the other and it’d take great courage to pull through! Not an easy feat!

    I love the Narrator’s positive outlook! She still gets to be alive….living, loving and raising her Munchkinz!

    Thanks for sharing guys, as much as this stings; the strength and hope the Narrator beams her searchlight on is contagious and commendable, even as life goes on! ❤

    • Chisom November 24, 2015 Reply

      So true, life must indeed go on. Thank God for courage … and for WAW peeps like Mirian, and Yemie 🙂

  7. Uncle Phil November 24, 2015 Reply

    The emotional journey of a woman with breast cancer, from denial to final acceptance and the life after mastectomy, is well conveyed.
    How important are our body parts? Should they define us? Are they our source of identity/happiness? I feel its a lot more difficult to answer this question staring down at a scarred, flabby and empty chest. Its quite comforting that in all this darkness and void is the sound of a tiny heart, beating.

    • Chisom November 24, 2015 Reply

      That tiny heart surely made my day, man. Thanks for stopping by, Uncle Phil

  8. Odinenu keren-happuch November 28, 2015 Reply

    This is a beautiful piece. Although I didn’t understand how Adaora who was just five at the time her mother was diagnosed of cancer became a teenager growing breasts and stealing her mother’s bras by the time the surgery was over. I understand that it was years after because Adaora was now grown but I didn’t see the connectivity in the work. Apart from this, I loved the work. It’s a painful rendition of the reality of a thousand women. So thank you for such an interesting read.

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