This is a tough read, but also a testament to some tough women.

The Chirurgeon's Apprentice

I am sitting here in the surgical waiting room at Northwest Community Hospital, just outside of Chicago. Florescent lights hum overhead while visitors flip casually through month-old magazines. At one point, a group of tittering young women breeze by clutching congratulatory balloons on their way to the maternity ward. The clock ticks in the background, persistent and unrelenting.

It is 2:48 pm, and at this very moment, my mother is undergoing a double mastectomy for breast cancer.


Until recently, the word was merely an abstraction. Cancer arose in conversation as a nameless statistic; an anecdotal story about a friend of a friend of a friend; a scribble in a surgeon’s notebook from the past.

Cancer was someone else’s nightmare, someone else’s pain.

Now, quite unexpectedly and intrusively, it has become a part of my own life’s story.

As a medical historian, I am comforted by the knowledge that…

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