The Day We Saw No Breast

Image courtesy of [Lisa McDonald] /

Image courtesy of [Lisa McDonald] / 

I remember the cold white tiles of the bathroom floor below my feet. My arms held my robe closed tight. I stared at my feet and recall being grateful for my toes, all ten. I stared at my hands and my fingers as they somehow fell folded, closed perfectly. I realized I was praying. I do not remember what for, probably grace, and most likely strength, maybe that I could be anywhere, but where I was. I stood tired, sore and scared. My husband next to me was curious and concerned and ready. I knew I had no choice. I knew the time had come. In a moment, I would see me and he would see me with no breast.

He stepped close. I gazed at the mirror image of us as he rocked me gently. I felt my robe untie, and cold air blew on my vulnerable body. Tubes with drains made their appearance. He opened the containers, emptied the fluid and tucked them neatly back in place. He kissed my forehead, pulled the stray strand of hair from my eyes and said softly, “It’s ok”.

I could feel the bandage that had once wrapped me tight become undone. Pieces of gauze fluttered to the floor and then, I was exposed. I looked away. He looked at me and then whispered in my ear, “You…are…b e a u t i f u l”.

I saw the damage; it was just as I expected. I stood, semi-lifeless and my husband, the love of my life, the man I was afraid, would be afraid of me, reached for the cream, the bandages and cleanser. He tenderly cleaned the area that used to be a breast. He then covered the wound, took the wrap, wound me tight, fastened the pins, put my robe on and held me.

I will never know how he really felt that day. Knowing my husband, he left the room, cried in a quiet place and mourned what he wanted and what he missed. Knowing my husband, he cried for me, not for him. I knew he cried that day, and not in front of me. He knew, that day, we had to cry alone.

When people get diagnosed with an illness like cancer, the effects of the illness on loved ones becomes paramount. It just happens. As a wife and mother, I was more concerned about my husband and children and how they would feel. I was afraid of losing the ability to nurture my babies. I was afraid of how my husband would feel with a sick and breast-less woman by his side. The cancer would change me. The cancer would change my children. The cancer would change the relationship I had with the man I loved.

I always felt I was more important to my children than their father. I carried them, labored them, and birthed them into this world. I fed them, woke with them, soothed them, and sacrificed a much-desired career because I wanted to be home with my children.

What I realized that day was my husband, the father of my children, had more to give us then I ever allowed him the opportunity to give. When I had cancer, I did not nurture my children, the way they were accustomed. My husband had the opportunity to step up and into a bigger role as a father. My children lost a part of me but gained so much from him. They adjusted to the change in me and embraced the change in their dad. They became better for it. My husband did not have the wife he married; I was not the woman he was accustomed. He embraced the change in his wife; I embraced the change in myself. We both became better for it.

That day, my husband was a gift to me, but that day he gave my children the greatest gift. He loved compassionately; he cared gently and deeply; he was there, for their mother.

Cathy&Scott  CathyKids


  1. I am slow to arrive here, but glad I did. Thanks, Cathy.

  2. Cathy, that was beautiful.

  3. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, Cathy. I’m so glad your visit brought me here. What a touching story. The emotion was palpable as I read it, and I think you described the feelings that surround that “first look” so well.
    I am so sorry for what you’ve been though. Your husband sounds like a good man — and it sounds as though you both help and support each other so well.
    I look forward to reading more about your story.
    My warmest wishes…

  4. I am moved by the brave retelling of your personal story. Your a remarkable woman and I admire the way you have turned personal tragedy into a source of strength for others fighting the fight you well understand. Two thumbs up to you!

  5. Love your bolg. I am preparing for a bilateral mastectomy after I had a lumpecty two years ago. Your husband d is amazing and its wonderful you have that support. Best wishes!

  6. Cammie sanders says:

    Amazing! Both your writing and your husband!

  7. that was so incredible Cath….I can relate in so many ways. When you have children and can not care for them exactly the way you pictured, it breaks your heart…but you are right, our husbands the fathers of these children step right up and for that our children are better people…..

  8. Jen Reed says:

    Thank you Cathy for sharing and putting into words what most, if not all of us feel and deal with after this terrible ordeal. You are a VERY blessed woman!

  9. What a great testement to your husband. We should all aspire to find someone so compasionate and supportive. Your writing defintiely gets you in the moment and we can feel what you are feeling. I am sure this has helped so many women that are going through what you and your family have already conquered

  10. Christine says:

    Simply beautiful Cathy!

  11. Speechless after reading your latest post and awestruck by your candor and wisdom.


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    The Day We Saw No Breast – Cathy Gabrielsen

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