My beloved grandmother was a breast cancer survivor.
She must have been diagnosed when I was around four years old and before my father remarried a year later. So there were just the three of us living in my grandmother’s home.
No one had explained to me, why did my grandma have to go away and leave us. I remember very well that my father would get me to draw on different cards, then he could take them to see Grandma in the hospital.
One day my beloved Nana came home. I remember that day my father and I waited at our front door and saw her appear at the top of the road as she walked home.
A few years later, when I was a little bit older, my Nana started talking about her operation if the subject was brought up by family members, but she always told me that it was not cancer, that what they had removed was a non-threatening fibre lump in her breast. In fact, she had told all her grandchildren the same story, and we all believed her.
During all these years, I only saw her scar properly once.
One afternoon during the school holidays, one of my grandmother’s colleagues; another primary school teacher dropped by and she insisted to check out my grandmother’s scar. I had a quick glimpse from walking pass her bedroom door when the two of them were talking and seeing my grandma showing her the scar.
Later on that day, when our visitor was gone, my Nana asked me if I wanted to see her scar. I nodded.
What shocked me was seeing her whole left breast had been completely removed and what had remained was a long; flat and very un-flattering scar.
This experience, at the age of eleven, had saddened and unsettled me. I guess I realized that I couldn’t prevent my loved ones from suffering, no matter how much I love this person.
Time went by, my beloved Nana passed away of natural causes at the age of eighty-nine.
Several years after her funeral, I went back to Taiwan to visit my relatives and during a conversation with my aunt, she confirmed to me that what my grandmother had was breast cancer, not a fibre lump: “She had the operation and chemotherapy, everything…”
Suddenly, I burst into tears. Knowing that she had chosen to protect me from fear of cancer and fear of loosing her… She kept everything in for all these years…
October is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, marked in countries across the world. I want to dedicate this story to all those who have fought and continue to fight Breast Cancer.
Photography by: Road Wang