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Making Peace With the Stranger in the Mirror

For all breast cancer took, so much more remains

In the background, a mirror with Arabic architectural features shows no reflection. In the foreground, a tall potted plant casts a shadow toward the reader.

She looks like me … but not.
Her face has lines fatigue has drawn
from surgery, pain & lack of sleep.
My face had light & creases from smiles
… & knew nothing of fighting breast cancer.

Her forehead is wrinkled & her eyes look tired.
My face had few lines
& my eyes were bright with wonder.

Her hair looks like mine.
At least the color is right.
But my hair was wild & full of body.
Her hair is limp, lifeless, & thin.

My chest carried the fullness of 53 years,
of womanhood & love & pregnancies & nursing my sons.
Her chest is neutered & full of scars,
unnatural & … unhuman.

My hips were wide, & my body round & curvy
… built low to the ground for hard work.
Her hips & back are bruised & taught,
with lines of scars from borrowed flesh used to fill her empty breasts.

This shape … this person …
I don’t recognize. I don’t
… until I look into my eyes.
I see.

I see the scars the dragon claws of cancer have raked across my body.
I see the fire in my heart & my “just for today”
as I make peace with the physical therapy
& the medication I swallow.

I see the light in my eyes, still there.
… still there.
At least I think it’s there …
I see …
I’m here …
I’m here.
I’m still here.

Natalie Stanfield headshot
Natalie Stanfield
Rochester Area Mensa | Joined 2011

Natalie is a professional voice actor, audio producer, dialectician, and recovering thespian. From her studio in the Finger Lakes region of western New York, she works with clients from national brand advertising to characters and corporate and educational narration. Diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer in early 2020, she was grudgingly foisted into The Pink Ribbon Sisterhood, a club nobody asks to join. Generally given to sarcasm and dark humor, she is only occasionally serious.