Trinkets and Armor, 7: You Say Horror and Shame, I Say Opportunity

“If life rips your heart out of your chest,
make something useful (even fun) out of the bloody mess.”
~ Magaly Guerrero


“Horrors and Shame”

I’ve searched my mirror
for the ugly,
for the incomplete,
for the unsexy
shadow of a woman you said would sprout out of the stitched chest separating me from death…

I’ve searched my mirror
for the horrors,
for the tears,
for the shame you said would pull the world from under me and turn wild laughter into screams…

I’ve searched my mirror
and found…
me, gloriously one-breasted,
curious about future comings… Me—
beautiful, grinning, whole
in ways some could never
imagine without help.


I searched your eyes
for something that could see
me, a woman ready…

I searched your depths for me
and I found… You—
the ugly,
the incomplete,
the unsexy shadow of a soul projecting
horrors and shame… you,
screaming at everyone (at everything)
you have no control


…and now, Trinkets and Armor, 7:

My grandmother lost one eye when she was just a girl. People often asked her, “Why don’t you get a prosthesis?” She always answered their inquiry in the same way, “Why should I?” And their reaction was always the same: bafflement… as if they couldn’t understand her question. I, even as a wee child, couldn’t understand their confusion. I couldn’t even imagine my grandmother without her missing eye. In my mind’s and heart’s eye, my grandmother sprouted into being with only one eye, wearing a gray dress, smoking an old pipe, holding a broomstick that seemed glued to one of her hands, and eternally grinning at me in a way that suggested she had at least thirteen secrets that would make any person who learned them howl in pleasure (or fear). She was perfect, my grandmother… just perfect, a woman ready.

When I learned that my right breast would have to sacrifice herself so that I could live, I considered breast reconstruction. But after a bit of reading, a lot of thinking, and after discussing the issue with my Piano Man, I knew that reconstruction was not something I needed or wanted for my sexy flesh and bones and me. These days, I am often asked the same question my grandmother was asked decades ago: “Why don’t you get a prosthesis?” And yes, you have guessed it, my answer is the same as hers: “Why should I?” However, unlike my grandmother, I’ve never been one for short and sweet answers. So… yep, I tend to elaborate: “Why should I subject myself to more physical trauma (and the risk of infection), when I could use this opportunity to explore the different kinds of whole and determined and sexy and sexual… that can become part of body and soul after defeating a nasty monster?”

And yes, you are correct, if you’re thinking that my response gets the same sort of confused reaction my grandmother’s answer used to get. I’ve even been told, “But if you don’t cover that up, people will know” (the words are often accompanied by panicked and slightly disgusted looks). I just smile (fine, so that’s not quite true. I smirk in a not-so-gentle way… while wondering, How can this person live in such a tiny box without suffocating to death or at least screaming to be let out?)

Yesterday, I shared this blackout on Instagram and Facebook:
with a note which explains that I’ve been revisiting my old stuff… and loving the fact that I can find different meanings (and useful guidance) in my own words, that my body has been changed drastically by the effects of breast cancer, and that I can’t wait to explore the different ways in which my new shape is as interesting and stunning and as enjoyable *cough* as the old one. Yep, I shall delight in becoming my own curiosity (again).

The public comments to that post were pure positivity. The same was true for most of the private messages. But there is always one. So, of course, my Luvs, someone messaged me to kindly inform me that I shouldn’t feel too bad when the reality of my situation hit me, and I “realize[d] that cancer leaves everyone broken, ugly, and feeling nothing like a woman. It happens to all of us.” According to this bright ray of well-intended predictions, said realization would come right after my drains are removed and my wounds heal enough to allow me to have sex or even think of it.

I promise that I didn’t laugh (too hard) at the idea that this poor soul believes that a missing breast and a couple of drains could keep me from having sex for more than a day or three. After the roaring left my loins, I found the time to feel some pity for that person. No, not because they’re probably feeling ugly and unattractive (and are most likely not getting lucky enough to enjoy the deliciously healing endorphins that come with sex), but because someone must be truly rotten inside to attempt to spread their misery to another while pretending that all they want to do is help.

Regardless of how life and living make me look, I will never stop being beautiful or attractive. Not because I will find ways to make others see me in the way that I see my Self, but because I will always see me and want me. And when we see and want our Selves, so does the universe. And the universe is wise… it knows beauty will only abandon those who make themselves ugly through their own actions and thoughts. Act and think… beautiful, and you will always be. And yes, my Wicked Luvs, as always, by “you” I mean “me” (you, too, of course… if you want to be).

It’s a tad gloomy outside, but… inside me a fire burns deliciously bright!

day 5 (+1) after my unilateral mastectomy


This week, I wish to read poems or stories or any other creative sprouts (with your words in them) that explore your thoughts and feelings on body image: how you think of it, how you feel society thinks of it, how it affects your life (or not).

To participate in Trinkets and Armor, please add the direct link to your entry at the end of your comment. If you don’t have a blog or a public platform, or don’t wish to write a post, just add your contribution as a comment. If you can, take a minute to read other entries. Unrelated links will be deleted without explanation.


Linked to Poets United.

76 thoughts on “Trinkets and Armor, 7: You Say Horror and Shame, I Say Opportunity”

  1. I have to agree w/u. Then again u knew I would. Your boob does not define you. Your spirit is what defines you. Your words exude an inner strength and it is sad what that person wrote to u. It’s obvious they think the physical ness is what is important. When in fact HEALTH is the key. This is just part of the journey a lesson. Similar to the journey I had 17 years ago dealing w/ loss and subsequent losses. I know for sure I will tackle this like you do w/ writing 😁💪🏼

  2. I think that private message may have been the definition of concern trolling.

    I imagine there’s something super cool, not to mention freeing, when we get to a point where we marvel at our body’s resilience (as well as the strength and yes beauty in that resilience) instead of dwelling on the parts where it deviates from the average or the expected. Rock on wild sister! I’d say enjoy the journey curiosity takes you on, but I already know you will.

    • “…concern trolling”, such descriptive accuracy, my friend.

      I think “marvel” is the best way to describe how I feel about what’s to come, about what might come, and about what is happening… For example, my surgery site remains bandaged (it will be revealed today). But I am not worried about how it might look, I’m just… extremely curious about what it will look like, about its positioning, about what sort of tattoo its orientation will call for, lol!

  3. Magaly, your beautiful post brought me back to a women’s yoga retreat I attended years ago in Montana. There was a little lake that no one swam in because it was freezing cold. But then one woman stood on the tiny dock, stripped off her clothes and jumped in. And then another. And the ululating started. And the whooping as each woman took her place on that dock and quietly or flamboyantly stripped, and jumped, to both join and welcome the next one. I remember the widow who later said no one had seen her naked since her husband died, and the woman who had just had a double mastectomy who even avoided being naked in the mirror, and the fleshy, and the bony, and the scarred. There was dark skin and light skin and in-between skin and we were all so beautiful and proud. I don’t remember who jumped in first to start that fabulous show, but I think you just started another one. 🎶🎶 lyulyulyulyu 🎶

  4. My grandma lost an eye to cancer but she wore a glass eye. She was a strong woman who never complained about anything. She was very spiritual and I miss her bringing this up..

    I think you are right about putting yourself through more cutting and shaping. Just more trama and if your man doesn’t care either should you. It takes a strong person to make this decision in this “material world.” I would probably wear a prosthetic just to look even in my clothes, but that’s me.

    I think losing your boob has given you even more of an incredible voice your poetry and art are on fire! Awesome!

    Do you have to have chemo? I don’t always get online to read your updates.

    You look great and healthy. Being so positive will certainly help. Love you!!!

    • The world (and its expectations) can make people’s lives a living hell. I don’t quite get it. Not why the world does it, that I get clearly–money. I just can’t understand why people can’t just give social expectations the finger and keep on living. I really hope everyone could. The whole world would be a happier place.

      Thanks so much for the word… and for the love. 🙂

  5. I so love to see, hear and read of strong women and you clearly are the epitomy of them all. We all knew you would be and how great that is. Your written words will still tease us and that is great too.

  6. Love your quote; it’s spot on and resonates. I am moved and in awe at your words spilling into paper; capturing the moment, the braveness of the speaker as she accepts herself, whole. I see no horror or shame here, but incredible strength of a beautiful woman exploring this adventure called life.

    You are an inspiration, Maga!

  7. “And when we see and want our Selves, so does the universe. ”
    Amen, amen!
    I remember when poet Audre Lorde decided not to hide her double mastectomy with prostheses, and how beautifully fierce and kind she stood in love, determined to be visible and whole as she was. (If you’ve never heard of her Cancer Journals, Wikipedia has a good summary.)
    But I am not telling you to read anything, because you are already–in poetry and prose–a rose unfurling petals into fullness. Thank you for your words, thank you for sharing what you see in your mirror: “. . . me, gloriously one-breasted, / curious about future comings… “

  8. Don’t you EVER stop being the AWESOMENESS that is “Magaly The Witchy Warrior Woman”. I totally get how you feel about such “caring” individuals. Hubby even reacted to the your post … the part where you are asked why you aren’t getting reconstruction with an instant “why should she?” He says you are still looking sexy to him 😀 *but then he is a total letch cws*

  9. Magaly, you said <>

    There is strength in these words. You were strong before, and you remain resolute and honest. I so admire you for sharing your experience, for putting your journey into poetry, and for doing what YOU want to do with YOUR body. Your experience makes me contemplate what I would do. I think that is one of the gifts of your words to many of us. I am proud of you, and I was SO glad to see you back at PU this morning.

  10. Shaking my head over the “well-meaning information” and the “help” some people want to slap you down with. Project much??? Yeesh! The only thing worse is the faith-pablum they want to baby-spoon down your throat, because it nourishes them, even if it poisons you…grrrrr.

    Everyone has their own journey through this fire–it scars, but it also purifies, and you are a cool breeze of truth, confidence, and positivity on all our fevered brows, always showing us the skeletons under the flesh of who we really are, and should celebrate. I love this poem, the ring of joy in it, the bitter copper taste of pain it washes away. Holding you in my heart, always, dear Magaly.

  11. That poem is brimming with the strength and power of being you — “beautiful, grinning, whole”.
    I pity those who make unwarranted suggestions and consider any experience beyond their own to be perplexing.
    Your self-love is as beautiful as ever. <3

  12. You are a woman with a strong spirit who had to make a personal decision. I respect that strength. My grandmother had her breast removed due to cancer and she lived a long life afterwards. She departed at age 88 and not due to cancer for that she was a survivor.

    Wishing you peace, You are definitely a warrior….

  13. This poem is absolutely gorgeous and heart-stirring, Magaly! ❤ You describe the battle between positive and negative attitude/spirit/vibe with such elegance and poise especially here: “gloriously one-breasted, curious about future comings” and oh “You—the ugly, the incomplete, the unsexy shadow of a soul projecting horrors and shame.”
    Sometimes we come across people who find it difficult to believe in hope and fail to appreciate good things around them.

    Hope you are having a wonderful Sunday, gorgeous 😘😘

  14. Your poems always seem to dance a tarantella right from the page–this one is inspiring and pushes the horrors right back out across the mat. 🙂

  15. Wow. You are so awesome, the whole-est person i know, i believe. I love your description of your grandma, and can see you in her. I loved every shining word of this. Was so happy to see you in the Pantry today, kiddo.

  16. I am glad you reach out and share your marvelous attitude. So much wisdom and courage! Long ago I came across a line that was meaningful to me and applies itself to the solution of many of life’s trials and tribulations. The line was “First you learn to love yourself”. What power it gives us, once we have conquered that simple philosophy! Keep on keeping on, Megaly. You’ve found the secret!

  17. First I’m glad that you are home and safe… the shock of having to go through surgery has to be overwhelming, and I love your positive attitude… the conversation with the mirror is awesome, and remind us all that we have to look what’s remaining rather than the things that are missing…

    You are awesome

    • What remains should always be more important than what goes, for the latter is all we have… If we spend all our time mourning what’s gone, what’s left will also whither… and then, we’ll have nothing.

      You are awesome, too. 🙂

  18. Just a comment. Your poetry is as always delicious and makes the reader THINK. Then, I searched your lovely picture. And searched, and even again. I can’t find it. I can’t find any ugly at all. None. Zero. Nada. WTF, its all GOOD. What ever was that person talking about? xoxo 💋

  19. Oh Boy! You did make the images perfectly clear and succinct. Well written. I believes this happens in all mirrors.
    I would tell your “character” not to blink but stare at the beauty and her creative uniqueness. Over. : )
    ps: Missed you.

  20. This poem is brilliant … powerful, poignant and proud to be a woman. This has turned into a crazy busy day for me, but I will return later this week, for the narrative … always a fascinating read.

  21. And the universe is wise… it knows beauty will only abandon those who make themselves ugly through their own actions and thoughts, loooooooove this. Rock on Magaly !

  22. You are an incredibly strong, and beautiful woman, who is fortunate to know her own worth. I truly admire you, and love your writing.

  23. Mirror, Mirror on the wall…the lovelyest of them all, and that is you Magaly. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. My dear friend, Mary, who is gone now, said when she showed me her scar, no man ever turned her down because of it.

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