I hope not to offend as I write about my body on Easter weekend. I get that there is a much bigger headliner for body stuff this time of year. I did attend 8 years of Catholic school, after all (consider me long lapsed at this point). The amalgamation of Easter and AC chemo #4 has me thinking a lot about the body and what it is capable of enduring.
Today as I waited for my shower to warm up I took stock of my body. I have had 7 surgeries surrounding breast cancer. Bi-lateral mastectomy, separate axillary node dissection, port placement, reconstruction, lumpectomy #1, lumpectomy #2 and another port placement. That’s 7, right?
I have had, to date, 8 rounds of two different types of chemotherapy and have 12 more to go. Then I will have radiation. After that, I will likely have another surgery or two for breast reconstruction (resulting from damage via the 2 lumpectomies), and have my ovaries removed.
Whilst this is all happening, I have also been put into full menopause at 41 years old. I sweat through my clothes most nights and those around me can watch as my face flushes with a hot flash at any given time.
All of these changes, though sometimes in quick succession, feel like a slow burn over time to me. Perhaps I don’t let myself digest them for a while, causing me to feel the mass casualty later.
I look around at my friends and peers and have thoughts like ‘So cool they have both nipples and can feel them.’ And ‘Wow, they can eat well and exercise and don’t gain weight from steroids or menopause, that is so lucky.’ And cover your ears Jesus and my family ‘She has a sex drive? You can’t be serious!’
These are all things that most of you probably take for granted, and you know what? I would be right there with you if I could be. I don’t wish away anyone’s vitality or happiness. And in fact, I don’t really spend that much time mourning what I no longer have. Like anything, you get used to it over time.
I used to say to people with great conviction that if my 2016 breast cancer was all the cancer I ever had, that it would be worth it. The cancer changed me for the better. I lived my life better, leaned more into myself and my interests, basically gave significantly less shits. It was freeing.
In saunters Greg and I am left to ponder, if this is my last go round with cancer, was it worth it? Hard for me to answer definitively now as I am still in it, but I am tempted to say no. This does not feel worth it.
A few things that could change my mind would be as follows, in no particular order:
- I get a book deal without having to do any proposal work cause I am lazy and tired as hell
- I see evidence that this changed my children for the better
- I get a lucrative modeling career as a middle-aged bald woman
- I can make a living as a public speaker on topics ranging anywhere from breast cancer to the merits of toast. Gosh I love toast.
Yes, I know that scans show that I am clear of distant metasteses, but Greg is a sneaky little fucker so I need time to heal before I can say this second go round is worth it. Of course I aways hope that through sharing, I am helping other breast cancery people and their co-survivors, but I feel like I am in a fight for my own life right now and I have to hold onto to myself and my life lines.
I am about to make a banana metaphor so everyone take a seat.
I liken my current body and mind to that of an old, bruised banana. You look at it and think ‘yikes, that is not for consumption.’ It may even smell a bit bad. But then you think ‘hmmm, it could be used to make a delicious banana bread, if I am willing to add some ingredients and put in some work…?’
The main reason this analogy falters is that the bread can be made in hours. My potential transformation will take years, a lifetime maybe. The ingredients won’t be sugar and butter. They’ll be poisonous drugs, radioactive lasers and time.
The poison and lasers I understand, and am willing to endure. It is the time I don’t like. I have to figure out how to feel fulfilled on these days when I am the smooshiest of bananas. How to thank my body for continuing to exist despite its own path of destruction to take me out.
You know I want to factor the Resurrection in here, but I am not going to do it. I don’t need a resurrection. I just need poison, lasers, time and the ability to love my body for what it is.