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Toni Kief

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I sit silently missing the radiation waiting room where everyone welcomed each other and openly discussed treatments and failures. I learned more about my therapy with the scorched team of pugilists than with any doctor.

Today is a different story. It is standing room only as we wait for answers usually coming away with more questions. Everyone in this room has had a mammogram, ultrasound or other technical humiliation in a struggle for life. A silent gathering of women, each listening to piped-in music, and the beat of her own heart. I make a weak attempt at conversation and humor, but it receives a polite nod with stressed smiles and tear strained eyes. So, I make a cup of tea and take my place at the end of the couch and wait. I've been here before, and I know the drill as I watch and try to block thoughts of death. There will be plenty of time for the tepid cup of something instant and a magazine. We experience so much, and share so little, patiently trapped in waiting, no praying, for the same answer.

The blinds are drawn, but there is a small gap at the bottom, and as a group, we stare at just a glimpse of the outside. It feels as if health and joy survive on the other side of the glass. Minds join in the wonder of the how and the whys of our modern times and the efficient disintegration of our bodies. Science has come so far, and yet, it is a full house at the Breast Center.

The door opens, and we hear, "Miranda." I watch a woman who seems too young to belong to this legion take a deep breath, set down the unopened magazine and rise to face her fate. She barely clears the door when another enters the waiting room to take the still warm empty seat. We look up in unison with stressed smiles, to silently welcome her to the sisterhood of wounded breasts.

We turn in unison back to the window and watch headless legs pass, and I extend a wish to each passerby that they are visitors and not a new warrior. When the door opens with another name and I send blessings as the next one rises.

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