Auntie A and I

Waiting room stomach cramping

Dry lips and trembling hands hidden

Underneath a hospital green gown

Keeping modesty intact

But letting in the cold draft of the xray room

Mammogram for mama day

Breast sandwiched between icy steel slabs

Indifferent machinery radiation playing eye spy

Hide and seek with your tissue

Is it lurking here

Or there

Days pass

Phone rings

We need a closer look

It’s probably nothing, a handbook soothing phrase

Heart racing, it can’t be…no it’s not.  I won’t go there again this time

But you do

You see it again

A day from long ago

Auntie A showing Ma her mastectomy

You are ten and it’s a mystery

You ignore the order to stay in the kitchen with your innocence

Instead you rebel and sneak a peak in the crack in the bedroom and see hell

It’s a black hole where Auntie A’s right breast used to be

And the devils name is Cancer

And it is killing her

You hang up the phone in the present

Don’t say the word, you don’t have to, everyone else is thinking it too

We need to bring in the special forces of the ultrasound

Waiting room stomach cramping

Dry lips and trembling hands hidden

Beneath the plastic garment bag holding

A bra you may not need again

Two cups one breast

You start to panic

This way please you are directed down the narrow walk

The nurse says  your name too kindly

Your file is too thick

Cold table, dimly lit room

Romantic lighting for a sterile love/hate affair

Metal paddle sliding, probing

Settling on a black blob the size of a pea

Or a button

Or an aspirin

Or a tumor

Don’t say the word, you don’t have to, everyone is thinking it too

We’ll need to remove this and test it

You can go now

We’ll contact the doctor

You go home and think of that word, but this time you will say it and make it small

Just in case it’s there this time


It’s like saying death

If you say it, it will scare it off

And it does

Until you go to bed and it lays there beside you

A hateful appendage like the breast you pretend isn’t there

The breast you have been terrified of for five years

Since they took out the cyst that wasn’t cancer

But wasn’t normal either

The one that put you on this twice yearly rollercoaster from hell

Needles aspirating

Lumps dug out


Safe this time

You leave the office feeling cancer free

You arrive home seeing the gaping hole that used to be your aunt’s breast

And you wait for it to get you too


Author: valo

I am a poet, writer and activist with a special interest in human rights for children and women as well as the elimination of poverty worldwide. If you read this today, feed someone locally for me will you? Drop off a non perishable food item at the food bank nearest you and consider yourself hugged. Thank you!

8 thoughts on “Auntie A and I”

  1. Oh honey, I read this a few days ago and if I’m honest I felt too desperately sad to make an honest comment. I know so many who have been affected and who have lived this. This is what is important about poetry. You can make a film about it, make a documentary about it and it’s true, they may change the world perception but to have an encapsulated memory that will last forever, for people to look to and realise they are not alone, is so important. You’re the master at such insights and I wish I could hug over this keyboard but all I have is words, again. Onward with the fight, Val. In every respect.

  2. It’s scary. The waiting room. The test results. The beeping of the monitors. The smell of antiseptic. You have captured that knot that forms in such situations in the pit of your stomach so well. Cancer is like saying death. Oh, Val, this has moved me so much….

    1. I’m glad this affected you Selma because my aunt’s death and life mattered to another. She passed away on my eleventh birthday and now that I have to fear this every year, I feel her with me in an intangible way.

  3. Seriously engaging & thought-provoking poem, Val ~ the moment I read your opening line I was captivated … & fearing the worst until your final lines. Some wonderful lines, too, particularly ‘your file is too thick’ ~ all of them contributing to the whole of the poem that, although ‘safe this time’, leaves me with a strong sense of your uncertainty. Thanks for sharing ~*

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