What can it hurt?

Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at his disposition, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts. – Mother Theresa

C’est facile ! (16 August 2020)

The bodybuilding exercises your friend Camille incorporates into your powerwalks along the St. Charles River include simple movements like sit-ups and squats. You wouldn’t mind skipping the jumping jacks; you are older now and jumping up and down like this can make a woman pee her pants. Last summer, you would have skipped the push-ups. Not for fear of peeing your pants, of course, but rather for fear of busting a breast implant.

« T’as pas remarqué que j’ai perdu mes seins ? » you ask her, Camille, who would happily have given you half of her D-cup breasts if she could. She had noticed. She just figured you’d lost weight. In a way, you had. 1.38 pounds worth. The best weight you’ve ever lost.

Breast Implant Illness (BII) is an anecdotal clinical entity. Yours started with migraines. Monster ones that could hit two or three times a month and last anywhere from three to four days. After that, the indigestion and the cramps, the loose bowels, the irregular periods, the night sweats. Oh, the night sweats. Then came the yeast infections and the bouts of bacterial vaginosis, or something in between. Your primary care doctor could never be sure; the tests weren’t always conclusive. She just kept giving you antibiotics. At 38, you suffered a mild case of shingles. At 40, a second less than mild one. The doctor at the CLSC on rue St-Jean who treated you the second time around was perplexed. “C’est pas normal,” she told you. Old people get shingles, or people with highly compromised immune systems. “Vous n’avez pas le SIDA?” she asked.

Sur la pointe des pieds (31 August 2020)

Not AIDS, come to find out. Lichen Sclerosis. And like AIDS, there is no cure for Lichen Sclerosis. Only steroid creams, which work fine until they don’t, and then you’ll want to kill yourself. But only after spending thousands and thousands of dollars on consultations with a naturopath, two Chinese herbalists, three acupuncturists, an allergy specialist, and a chiropractor who dabbles in applied kinesiology and functional neurology, as well as giving up all of the following just to keep the symptoms at a dull roar: alcohol, coffee, chocolate, dairy, eggs, gluten, sugar, grains, legumes, white potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, nut butters, corn, and eggplant, not to mention anything made with soy, canola or sunflower oils or that include additives of any kind.

Like I said, you’ll want to kill yourself.

C’est à moi que vous posez cette question-là ? (10 September 2020)

Neither your primary care doctor nor any of the specialists you saw in both western and non-western medicine ever mentioned the idea of BII. What if they had? What if one of them had suggested removal of the implants as a potential cure to your disease, the way your sister would after watching a documentary on it shortly after you’d moved from Brooklyn to Providence? Would you have taken the advice?

“Je suis pas sûre,” you tell Camille.

A person needs to be ready to hear that kind of thing; a person needs courage to act on it. You loathed the way you looked before the breast implants, enough perhaps to accept continued suffering if the doctor who mentioned it couldn’t guarantee that you would be cured if you had them removed. Diseased and ugly? No thanks.

So what pushed you to listen to you sister? Camille wonders.

“L’art,” you tell her.

Tante Bérénice mangeant une pomme (19 October 2020)

Painting came into your life at about the same time your heart opened to the idea of a living God whose role, like that of a loving parent, is to offer his help and his guidance. You had tried everything against my disease. Everything, that is, except ask God to help you. According to the literature, there is no cure for Lichen Sclerosis. The chronic symptoms, the pain, the draconian dietary restrictions you’d adopted to keep it under control: you didn’t want this to be your life. What can it hurt, you remember wondering, to ask God to help you? So you did. Every day, you prayed to him. Every day, you asked him to show you what he needed you to do to help him help you. He heard you, and he spoke.


The women in the paintings, they’re flat-chested. All of them. And they are so beautiful. Have faith. You will be beautiful without your implants. Beautiful, and because you asked, free from your symptoms.  

Thérèse commandant son souper (29 décembre 2020)
Water stain for C’est facile !
Water stain for Sur la pointe des pieds
Water stain for Tante Bérénice mangeant une pomme
Water stain for the bird in C’est à moi que vous posez cette question-là ?
Water stain for the woman in C’est à moi que vous posez cette question-là ?
Water stain for Thérèse commandant son souper

Addendum. Of the 200 or so watercolors I made during the first year of production, three of them feature women who are not flat-chested: La Cantante (1 May 2020), Dans la salle des miroirs (22 May 2020), and La Cantatrice Clémenceau accompagnée de Philibert à la flûte (28 March 2021). In the case of the first and the last pieces, the women in question happen to be opera singers. The fact that they are well-endowed is undoubtedly a function of the subconscious being influenced by the widespread stereotype of the corpulent opera singer. As for the woman in the second piece, she is standing in a hall of mirrors. We see her as a distorted figure whose disproportionately large breasts are not natural for her relatively skinny frame.

La cantante (1 May 2020)
Dans la salle des miroirs (22 May 2020)
La Cantatrice Clémenceau accompagnée de Philibert à la flûte (28 March 2021)
Water stain for La Cantante
Water stain for Dans la salle des miroirs
Cracks for La Cantatrice Clémenceau accompagnée de Philibert à la flûte

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