by Sarah Michaelis Wednesday August 24, 2011

“Me see booboo! Me see booboo!” my two-year-old shrieks for the fifth time today. I lift up my shirt and flash my child. “It hurt, mommy?” she asks, with a look of concern. “Yes,” I say. “But it’ll be better soon.”

My booboo is the reason I can’t pick up my daughter and therefore the reason she asks to see it all the time. I think she’s hoping that when I lift my shirt the booboo won’t be there anymore. That instead there will be something else. Something that’s comforting and normal for her, that she leaned on like a pillow, and the something that fed her for the first year of her life.

But that something is missing now, and it scares her. Maybe if she asks enough, it’ll come back. Like it’s playing a game of peek-a-boo. Part of me hopes the same thing.

But every time I lift my shirt, there it is: a grisly slash where my breast used to be.

The asymmetry of it is a shock to the senses. One of these things is not like the other; one of these things just doesn’t belong.

Some women hide from it. Some don’t look at it for months after the surgery, easing themselves into a very cold, murky unknown. But not me, I like things to be quick.

I wasn’t going to show my youngest. But she was very upset by my sudden avoidance. I could see she felt like it was something she had done. She was sad, and then she was mad, refusing to even let me kiss her. “I don’t want you!” she’d yell. We explained to her that mommy had a booboo that hurt.

But she didn’t buy it. She needed evidence. So I showed her.

She saw it before my husband did. He doesn’t like things to be quick.

She saw it before her older sister. Actually, my teenager hasn’t seen it and probably never will. To her it represents so much more than just a booboo. It means her mother is sick. To her, it means her mother might die.

But to my youngest, this booboo has changed me and she doesn’t understand why. Why did this have to happen? Why can’t mommy just be normal again?

I ask those questions everyday too.

I was on Facebook the other night, and in the right navigation bar was posted, “On this day in last year, your status was…” I started crying. My status was, “My husband is building me a deck.” No big deal. I remember that day. I was excited because we were finally going to have a deck in the backyard.

It’s not that the memory is sad. It’s what it represents.

It was my life before cancer. It was my normal, boring, humdrum life, that today, I want back more than anything else in the world. I want to be excited about things without this stupid, “yah but…” hanging behind every thought.

I want to be the normal mom I used to be.

I used to feel so guilty because I wasn’t the supermom, with clean floors and something delicious in the oven. I was always disheveled mom, with dog prints on the floor and pizza on the table. But now I have so much more to feel guilty about. I’ve got something that could really screw up my kids.

And I can’t fix it.

I can only hope that this booboo and the others to come will heal, and that what I told my daughter is true. It’ll be better soon.