400-level Medicine & Surgery
Olabisi Onabanjo University
The first time I saw a surgery, it was a mastectomy—I can’t remember if it was the left or right breast. I can, however, remember, vividly, the tightening in my belly when the breast tissue was lifted away from the body and kept in a jar. The questions that flooded my mind came from nowhere!
Is this how futile our body parts are?
At what point did she decide she was ready to give up one of the pair of organs she was probably most excited about when puberty visited?
Did she have a husband? Did it matter to him?
What stage was her cancer at?
Did she need to get a special kind of underwear?
What will they do with the breast mass?
After the anaesthesia wears off, will the stitches hurt?
These questions didn’t see the light of the theatre, and I didn’t even bother pushing them. They just sat still in my mind, gathering dust for the next journey.
This procedure was apparently the last resort for women whose breast cancer couldn’t be controlled. My mind raced back to a loved one we lost to this disease. I didn’t remember crying then—I had mastered the art of mourning silently and that ability came in handy as I mourned my freedom that day in the operating room.
At what point do I unlearn the theme songs of all the Nickelodeon shows from my young teenage years and replace them with surgical terms and procedures?
Did they teach how to withstand pain here?
Or will the tightening in my belly become so familiar that I won’t feel it?
How would I look in that surgical gown? Holding that scalpel?
Did I need to throw away my large hoops?
The multiple questions were back, and this time, they didn’t sit still. They threw tantrums, complaining about how the previous questions were sitting in their space.
Watching the surgeon go layer after layer with precision and sheer skill, I remembered I still couldn’t even walk in a straight line. Maybe that precision and accuracy were needed for just surgery.
Do I even want to be a surgeon?
Unlike other departments, they weren’t actually cajoling us to specialize in surgery. They threw subtle shades at other departments—very subtle, with no actual effort. Maybe because they knew that just watching them open up a human body, like it was 100-naira Agege bread, and rearranging the insides, like a woman arranging the fruits she hawked, was enough to help us decide to either join the league of those who knew the human body well enough to reach into it and fix it or just stay away because the smell made us puke.