birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Ghost Tracks

There’s one on the right and one on the left.

The biopsies were done a few years apart but they felt like worlds apart.

The doctor sent me for one after my very first ever mammogram. There were calcifications visible in the film, not anything alarming but a pre-symptom to a pre-symptom. Better check it out. The procedures leading up to the actual surgery were absolutely barbaric. Large hollow needles like framing nails were inserted in several places to pinpoint the area affected, and then another mammogram – with the needles squashed in place – to make sure they had the right spot before they inserted a stinging dye. They didn’t, the first time. Nor the second time. The technician assured me a woman was in the week before who spent the whole time making business calls on her phone while having this done. No big deal!

Good for her. I was a wreck.

They numbed the area of the breast where they proceeded to cut, but they didn’t numb my head. Shaking like a leaf while they cut and sewed, I kept thinking, haven’t these people ever heard of Valium? Or Xanax? Seriously, are they unaware that I am trembling so hard that I think I may fall off the operating table?

While I was being wheeled back to the recovery area, the surgeon was wheeling in the next patient and stopped to say to me, “Tell her it wasn’t so bad.” I can’t remember. Did I roll my eyes? I was in no mood to be reassuring, and he was passing me the responsibility.

Some years later, new reason for an exploration, new doctor, new medical facility, kind people who had heard of, and even thought to use, anesthesia. A whole new world.

Every year I nervously go in for another mammogram. I am watched carefully because breast cancer was what got my mother. She fought it off and on for close to twenty years before it won.

They ask if I have any scars before they start so they can mark them with a little strip of tape that looks like a row of colorful polka dots. Yes, I say, but I’m not sure where they are. They’re very faint. You’ll have to find them.

Forgive To Be Forgiven

The Steps