Support the Café

Search our Site

A “whole” person

A “whole” person

I was up early yesterday morning after a fairly restless night. The prospect of surgery, pain and the unknown is definitely a combination that kills sleep, even if the boys were, for once, rather calm and quiet. I got most of the chores done that I needed to do before I left for the hospital and finally it was time for my shower.

I got the water running and just as I was about to step in I stopped — something in my head said to me, “This is the last time you will do this as a whole person.” That got my attention. “Whole person”?

I’ve had teeth removed. That didn’t make me less of a person. I’ve had my gall bladder out and that didn’t make me feel less than a whole person either, so why are two pieces of flesh, fat and ductwork making me think I will feel like less of a whole person? That’s goofy. I will just be missing a couple of parts I really can live without — not like i was losing a lung or my liver or something. A 92-year-old friend asked if I were going to have reconstruction and when I said I hadn’t made up my mind yet, her response as “Well, why do you need it then? You don’t have a husband!” She’s right, but I’m not sure I’d have put it in exactly those terms!

Why would I need them? My clothes would fit a little better (given the right foundation) and the darts would do what darts are supposed to do. People look at you sort of funny if you’re flatter than a third grader when you’re obviously in your sixties or more. My liver now sticks out and makes me look a bit pregnant (and the Immaculate Conception I’m NOT) and I think it is going to take me a long time to get up the courage to wear t-shirts out in public again. The boys don’t care. They’re just glad Mom’s home from wherever she went that she came back smelling so funny.

As for being a “whole person”, I now have to think of that in terms of a new reality. I still have my brain, my lungs, my liver and other necessary parts. My eyes still work pretty well and even if I have some false teeth, they manage to do what teeth are supposed to do. So what is this “whole person” bit? Breasts may be gender identifiers and a lot of women are bound up in that identity, but I don’t think I have ever really been one of those. I’ve never been a clothes horse, so having a perfect fit isn’t all that important although I do like comfortable clothes that don’t make me look like I’m a little kid dressing up in her Mama’s dressing gown and fancy slippers (reserved for her hospital stays). Still, I am a whole person, even without a couple of mammary glands that have served their purpose and that I can have prosthetically replaced — if I really feel like I need them.

But then, I was too shy to burn my bra in the 60s, so maybe now it’s time for me to do that. Who knows, being without might be a really nice thing — no droopy straps, no cutting, binding or riding up, no wondering if they’re going to shrink any more and make me go buy a smaller cup size.

You know, this might not be so bad, once I stop feeling like I’ve been run over by a semi. I may not be a “whole person” with all the parts I was born with, but I’ve got what I need. That’s the important part.

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mary Caulfield

Blessings on you for full recovery and a new life ahead.

– Mary Caulfield

(Fellow EfM-er and mentor)


Aristotle said “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” I’m beginning to realize the wisdom of that.

Thanks for your comment, Fr. Ron.


PS. Some of my best friends are bald headed!:)

Christi Hill

I really don’t know how I would feel about a mastectomy or two. I was acutely aware of the visible difference in size that a quadrantectomy produced. But one more venture under anesthesia resolved the issue. Now I can wear T-shirts smaller than tents.

Father Ron

What a wonderful celebration of ‘The Real Self’. My wife also had a mastectomy. I told her that I love her – with or without breasts. There is more to her than meets the eye, thank God. Anyway, when I die, I don’t want to ‘go up’ with a bald head and gout!

Ron Smith

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café