It was my good boob that tried to kill me.

A year ago I stood at the mirror, glaring at my left breast which was starting to show the strain of breastfeeding my baby. The good boob, the one on the right, remained as firm and perky as it was when I was 18. I couldn’t have guessed that all that perkiness was supplied by 11 centimeters of cancerous tumor.

Judy Schwartz Haley - scarred

I now have a scar that runs from under my arm almost all the way to my sternum. I have 5 little pin-sized tattoos that are used to line me up in the beastly machine that irradiates my skin – which is now burned rough and red from collarbone to abdomen, and breastbone to armpit. In the place where my breast used to be is an implant called an expander (Aaron calls it my bionic boob) with the mission of stretching the skin to hopefully make it possible for doctors to manufacture a new breast once I complete treatment.

My left side is scarred as well, with the tell-tale 2-inch horizontal line just below my collarbone where the medi-port was installed for my chemo infusions.  Cancer survivors recognize each other by this this little scar that peeks out from any kind of V-neck top. The port shows through my skin, and my husband and I joked that with these implants and my bald head, I should have dressed up as a Borg for Halloween. Beneath the skin and ribs, my heart has been damaged by the chemo drugs as well.

The memory of wishing that my left breast was more like my “good” boob now brings a chill. But the left breast will soon become a scar as well, as I’m having a second mastectomy with my reconstruction this summer. The type of cancer I have has an extremely high rate of recurrence.

My attitude towards these scars is changing.  Each scar tells a story, and since I’m still kicking, each scar represents a challenge I overcame. I’m learning to accept them as a kind of private little merit badge. Having a supportive husband helps.  And since the perky boob, the “good” boob, turned out to be evil, it’s worth mentioning that just because something is pretty doesn’t mean it’s good.

You can learn more about my cancer story here:

my cancer story | Judy Schwartz Haley


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Judy Schwartz Haley


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