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Battle Scar

Patricia Evangelista

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Battle Scar
This is a story of a woman at war. This is her picture. This is her scar.

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MANILA, Philippines – The doctor declared war at 2 in the afternoon one Saturday in February.

It was not a war she was prepared to fight, not this enemy, not on this battlefield, and certainly not while wearing a borrowed hospital gown printed with pretty pink flowers.

Gia Sison never wore skirts. Her closet was bare of florals. She walked into hospital rooms in dark slacks and bright blouses, stethoscope looped inside her purse, checklists saved on her phone. She knew how to snap out orders, how to soothe a patient into submission, how to assure and demur, command and demand. Suddenly there she was, a patient in her own hospital, at the mercy of a kindly nurse who gave her a folded hospital gown and promised her the wait wouldn’t be long.

On any other day, there would have been no need for reassurance. Hospitals comforted Gia. She had gone to school with the surgeon waiting outside the white-tiled room. She had walked the wards on the floors above. She knew the 5 radiologists looking through the glass, all of them watching for a mass that may or may not have grown inside Gia.

The voice over the microphone told her to stay still. The plates were projected onto a white screen.

Gia saw the lymph nodes that had gone dark under her armpit. She saw the mass blooming inside her left breast. She understood what it all meant, and for the first time in her life, Gia Sison, MD, wished sincerely that she had never become a doctor.

Outside the radiology laboratory, in the reading room, medical personnel clustered over the plates.

Gia didn’t ask them what they thought. She didn’t ask about biopsies or lumpectomies or the possibility the masses were benign. She asked one question.

How long, she asked, will I have before I die?

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