Thursday, December 29, 2011

Imperfectly perfect.

This is dedicated to my friend Tanya Luz, who way back encouraged me to let it be what it was, to embrace what it is and hold my head high--or shake it when necessary.

We wheeled into the parking lot, crunching on the ice underneath, a little giddy at the thought of a few hours away for a little rest and relaxation.

"Oooh, let's start in the hot pools and then go on to our appointments," Lisa noted as she started out of the car.

I froze. "I didn't bring a swimsuit," I said.

"Oh, I didn't either, not a big deal," she replied, and then stopped. "Oh."

We both looked at each other for a minute. "Lis, I don't think I can hack sitting with a bunch of people I don't know with these scars. It wouldn't be anything if I had boobs, but I just don't think I can do it."

"That's ok, let's just go in and see what the situation is inside," she offered.

[I need to pause here and say that from time to time I realize that I am waaaay TMI in what I write here. When I think about my male friends reading this stuff, I cringe. I wonder sometimes if it's crazy that I write about these things and then I realize that people can decide to read if they want to. And, for those of you who are here because you are googling "schlongs"---yes, I can see you--sorry to disappoint.]

So we cruised inside to this beautiful spa teeming with people, grabbed our robes and headed into change. The women's locker room was packed and suddenly I felt like the early-developing 5th grade girl trying to hide the embarrassment of her breasts while clumsily changing clothes. Take off the shirt, hold the robe with chin, try to get into robe without flashing everyone, {shit!} drop robe. All the while uncomfortable and slightly panicked that I am going to make someone else uncomfortable. Yes, uncomfortable. Because it's not really about me feeling like a freak so much as shielding others from the discomfort of the experience of seeing someone with a double mastectomy.

But on the way into the showers I noticed something. Women line the dressing room in various stages of disrobing and, as I cast my eyes around the place, it hit me how imperfectly perfect the female form is. There are women of all shapes and sizes. Lumpy, bumpy, big, small. Even the ones in the best shape had boobs that were disproportionate or hips that were too wide or, gasp, cellulite.

Imperfectly perfect.

In a flash, I thought of my friend Tanya who used to do burlesque and her stories of women with all sorts of crazy, mixed up bodies who would get up and shake it, just because they could. And in that moment I realized that I am just another of these imperfect bodies lined up. My lack of boobs makes me a little bit more of a sideshow, but I may as well own it. In all likelihood, one of these 16 women in the room will have breast cancer too. In all likelihood, they will all have mothers or sisters or friends who will find themselves in the same situation I am in. In all reality, my hiding doesn't help anyone.

Out in the pool, the water was so hot and the air was so cold. We women alternately crouched under the water and rested alongside the pool. Sitting with my head back, talking to my sister, relaxing into the feeling of purification, of lifting, of being just present with where I am. Delicious.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Begin the Begin

Today was an end and a beginning.

It was my final appointment as a cancer patient. It is the beginning of my life as a person who is, in some ways, managing having a chronic disease.

We sat with my doctor as he spoke about the rules of the game going forward, about the inevitable worries that crop up, about when to call and what not to worry about. And then it was over.

Over. And so very strange.

Nick and I both walked out almost feeling like "what happened to us these past 10 months?" When you aren't in the middle of it anymore, it feels a little blank.

I had cancer, now I don't.

Or do I? Or will I? Life is back to normal, stuffed too full of things to do from family to projects to dust bunnies. In many ways, it was like it was all a dream.

This ending is almost more strange and sad and bizarre than the day they unplugged me from chemo. The finality of it is confusing.

I was not sick, then I was, now I am not.

I didn't know I was sick before and I don't know if I will be in the future. Part of me still doesn't grasp the fact that I had cancer. Isn't that strange?

Part of me does not grasp the fact that I had cancer.

I keep repeating that in my head, trying to get it to sink in.

How do you survive something you've never really accepted?

This is all part of the restarting. I can floss my teeth again. I can exercise in real ways. I don't have to use so much hand sanitizer. My hair is growing back in.

In 6 months, will I remember any of this?

Let's begin again, begin the begin...