NOTHING'S CHANGED: Diary of a Mastectomy by Dorothy Abbott

NOTHING'S CHANGED: Diary of a Mastectomy

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Dorothy Abbott was 52 when, by chance (or ""the guidance of God""), she found a lump in her right breast, after indecision and delay on her part and her physician's, cancer was diagnosed and a mastectomy performed. The message she seeks to get across in her diary of the two succeeding years--echoed by the other 14 mastectomy patients whose case histories she includes--is that ""it's not so bad."" But we are not quite convinced. There's no question of Abbott's personal courage: friends and doctors marveled at her resiliency, she found herself comforting her husband, rather than he her; and though she acknowledges the annoyance and pain entailed, the brief nod she gives them is convincing evidence that she took it all in stride. But readers who don't share her outlook will not be reassured by her good humor; we want more, in the end, than she gives us. ""I am not mutilated. I am merely back to basics,"" Abbott maintains--leaving us to deal, still, with the horror of what she relates. While waiting in hospital to undergo surgery (diagnosis still uncertain), Abbott is visited by a friend who discusses her own bilateral mastectomies: ""it is natural and artless that she bares her chest, showing amusing but not unattractive little boy flatness. A slash of horizontal scar is all that remains. . . ."" We also feel left out of much of what she's learned about family reactions--especially about how husbands or other men feel, suffering ""their own unique sadness even as they insist 'it doesn't matter.' "" With all that is suggested but remains unsaid--physical limitations after surgery, problems with doctors, fear of the future--most readers will find it difficult to react with Abbott's equanimity. Ultimately, the information, comfort, and companionability of Lucy Shapero and Anthony Goodman's Never Say Die (1980) more effectively dispel fear.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Frederick Fell