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Force of Habit

Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
From Fine Black Lines: reflections on facing cancer, fear and loneliness Copyright © 1998 Mulberry Hill Press

Once before we went to sleep
my husband reached
to caress my missing breast-
I felt him cringe
and he slowly
withdrew his hand,
hoping I had not noticed.

Having done so once,
he never forgot again.

I learn more slowly.

Whenever I run up the stairs
my hands instinctively
fly toward my chest-
forgetting, after all this time,
there is no need to steady breasts
that lie on the cutting room floor.