Pectoriloquy |

Absence of Breast, Acquired FREE TO VIEW

Maureen Tolman Flannery, AB, MA
Author and Funding Information

Affiliations: Evanston, IL,  From the Hanger Orthopedic Group, Evanson, IL.

Correspondence to: Maureen Tolman Flannery, AB, MA, Hanger Orthopedic Group, 1123 Emerson St, Suite 213, Evanston, IL 60201; e-mail: mtflannery@earthlink.net

Chest. 2008;134(1):213. doi:10.1378/chest.08-0314
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Published online

ICD-9 code 611.8

“Other specified disorders of breast.”

Clinical diagnosis: Absence of Breast, Acquired.

Strange phrase. Is this acquired like

we’ve acquired more holiday decorations

than we can find room for in this house of abundance;

or like executives with their investment portfolios;

perhaps I’ve acquired it as,

with a long life of contemplation,

one acquires a philosophy

and the wisdom that befriends it;

or maybe it’s the way an adult

acquires a taste for baked brie or brussels sprouts?

Or is this how certain professions

acquire an inside edge on oxymoron?

So this is what, in mid-life,

I’ve acquired–

a bodily off-balance,

disequilibrium at the thought

of my own tissue turning on itself

like a distempered animal,

the rude intrusion of cancer,

hide-and-seeking in me

like an untamed child on the loose

in a house full of delicate antiques,

a transverse scar and an empty space

where the touch of a lover once networked

to the center of my receptivity,

where love asked admittance

and nourishment flowed out

like the breath that built life

behind that sometime breast

of which I’ve acquired

an absence.

Editor’s Note:The poet, while working as a coder for a plastic surgeon, was “struck by the terminology of an acquired absence.” She had several close friends recovering from breast cancer at the time. She currently works for a prosthetics/orthotics company. Her literary work has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP

Editor’s note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy:Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to poetrychest@aol.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.




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