I miss you. It’s been interesting being here on the other side, without you, Body. But I found the area for the breasts that had cancer in them, and we’re all here without our Bodies, and so that makes it a little more bearable. We’re together.
I’m not the new kid on the block anymore. Today, your cancerbuddy H’s right breast came to the other side. I was very excited to see her, and to show her all around. I introduced her to the breasts that comforted me when I first got here, and I showed her the best spot for sunbathing. Tomorrow we’re going to go floating in the ocean with the other young breasts who love to swim and I’m going to tell her silly jokes to make her laugh. All the other breasts are here, too, and I’m going to introduce her to everyone.
I know you think it’s make-believe, sometimes, dear Body. But there’s nothing not real about it. Telling stories is at the core of who we are as humans. We make sense of the world by telling stories, and by imagining our selves as characters in stories that are related to other people in the world. It’s where everything comes from. We teach each other about the world by learning about how others were, what they did, how they are. And so we participate in the stories, the making of identity and the knitting of community, and we teach those around us as we do. The stories become who we are.
The story about how the breasts who get mastectomy’d all go to a place where all the other breasts who got mastectomy’d went is part of your story, Body. It’s a story you share with lots of Bodies before you and lots of Bodies after you. I’m your breast in this story, dear Body, and the story goes like this: We are here together, me and the other breasts, and we are waiting for you bodies to finish living on earth. We’re not alone here, we’re all together. Just like you. You and all the other women who are tied to this place, because they’re breasts are here sunbathing with me. Each time you tell the story, Body, your words weave together new realities over here on the other side, where I can find warm embraces and intellectual stimulation and afternoon sunshine because you imagined it as such. Can you believe there’s all that on the other side for breasts who died too soon? Ah, the power of the imagination.
Remember, Body, when those young people we worked with in Nicaragua always asked why you believe in magic? This is magic, Body. Storytelling is magic. It holds us all together. The only way to make sense of such horrific knowledge as cancer forces on us is by telling stories, by making them up, by allowing words to coalesce until there is some way to imagine a little bit of glitter, a hand to grab onto for support, a deep warm embrace.
Maybe, Body, it’s time to make up a story for that hard, uncomfortable expander that’s holding space between your chest wall and your skin. It might be time to stop hating that piece of plastic, and come up with a story about how the plastic is gently and carefully holding the physical space in my memory. Maybe if you send that plastic warmth and believe that it’s not your enemy and imagine it as holding open my space for a little while, it will stop screaming so much every time you run. Maybe if you can get on the same team with the expander, then it will let you lift your arm over your head so you can go to yoga, Body. I know how much you need to go to yoga.
The thing is, that plastic is going to be there for a while. Three months, maybe six. You are so tired now, Body, and healing is harder this time. It might be easier to give up the fight, loosen the muscles, accept what is. Acceptance is never easy, I know. But the thing I’ve learned from the other breasts, over here on the other side, is that our capacity to resist is finite. Eventually, acceptance comes, and its easier if we can let go gently.
Know that I’m here, Body. I’m you’re Left Breast and I’ll always be your Left Breast. We’ve went through so much together, and I’m grateful. Remember the time I got bitten by a spider in Nicaragua and it oozed everywhere, and you called the wound your “triple nipple?” Remember the first time someone else touched me? Remember the time I starred in the totally not scandalous naked movie project you convinced your college buddies to make? There were so many good times, weren’t there, Body? So much to remember.
But I’ve got my spot now, and its on the other side. Don’t you worry, I’ve got lots of love here. I have friends and mentors and colleagues and tanning buddies. They’re taking good care of me, and I’m taking good care of them. Holding my spot open doesn’t mean replacing me, or pretending I wasn’t there. Holding my spot open might mean sometimes, you can pretend I’m there and that this whole cancer catastrophe never happened. I know that seems impossible right now, but some people say that’s the story you’ll tell next. Holding my spot open might mean that when you come over here to the other side, too, Body, I can slip right in so easily. Holding my spot open might mean that you can always touch the space where I was, and that you can always know that much of me will always miss you, Body.
It’s just a thought, Body. Maybe you need to fight the expander a little longer. Maybe you need to keep railing against it, reciting your hatred for it, noticing ever ache and pain it causes. But sometime soon, that will all come to a close. You can remember me and make peace with the hard as rock expander holding my spot open. But whatever you do, know I’m over here on the other side, and I’m OK.
It’s time for me to go now. I need to find your cancerbuddy H’s Right Breast, because she’s new here. She’ll find her family here, eventually, too, just like I found mine. I have a big old lovely family here, and they’re taking good care of me. Now you go, and take care of that space where I used to be. I’ll be here, Body, thinking of you, cheering you on from the other side.
Your Left Breast