The following article by David Brooks, "A Case of Mental Courage," was published on the New York Times website on August 23, 1010 (click here to read Brooks's article there or just follow the jump) :

In 1811, the popular novelist Fanny Burney learned she had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy without anesthesia. She lay down on an old mattress, and a piece of thin linen was placed over her face, allowing her to make out the movements of the surgeons above her. (Ed. The painting of Burney at left was made by her cousin, Edward Francesco Burney, in 1782.)
“I felt the instrument — describing a curve — cutting against the grain, if I may so say, while the flesh resisted in a manner so forcible as to oppose & tire the hand of the operator who was forced to change from the right to the left,” she wrote later.
“I began a scream that lasted intermittingly during the whole time of the incision — & I almost marvel that it rings not in my ears still.” The surgeon removed most of the breast but then had to go in a few more times to complete the work: “I then felt the Knife rackling against the breast bone — scraping it! This performed while I yet remained in utterly speechless torture.”
The operation was ghastly, but Burney’s real heroism came later. 
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