It’s kind of dreamy, isn’t it? Especially with the unpainted cast, the one on the far left, fading into the white. That body is fading away, that one that I used to have, that one that was carefree, healthy, hopeful, that one that needed nothing more than a PhD and a big dream to get through life. Then came the middle cast, she with a dissertation on one breast and pathology reports on the other. The middle cast, she with one foot in cancerland and one foot in academia. The middle cast, the girl tiding up wedding ends and looking forward to life after the big part and white dress. The middle cast, she who could not believe the life she was living, the world she was thrust into, the utter not knowing, the horrible cancer violence, the total and consistent clash of worlds, where languages clash and don’t exist, where amputation is pending. And finally, the now cast, she who needs to cover a fake boob with yarn to soften it, even as the heart from the middle pumps into today’s body, connecting the two.
And Monday, a new body. Another surgery. Another fake breast, this one softer, or so they say. Another opportunity for the surgeons to get it right, fool the world, hide my cancer, make my body presentable in the patriarchy. Another opportunity for my to lie still, my body quieted and immobile. Another opportunity for them to take control, another time I have to trust my surgeon with… my life. Another opportunity to wonder, to question, to become enraged, to be hopeful, to feel hateful, to wish I had another life, to imagine this is a terrible nightmare, to will it to be untrue.
Tonight, we are watching a movie. And as we snuggle on the couch and our overgrown kitten licks my hair, which the hairdresser dyed too red this afternoon, I can’t help but look up at the top of the bookshelf, and know that again, a body I cannot recognize will greet me in the mirror. I can’t help but feel spiteful, jealous, and angry. Certainly, I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful to be surrounded by brilliant people. I am grateful to call world-class doctors my own. But I am still angry. I am still sad, to lose again, yet another breast shape. Another way my body was, another shape I grew to recognize, if I did so spitefully. Of course this surgery isn’t worth the boob going away party, the fanfare and the gathering- but it still sucks. And as I look up on our book shelf, I know. I know it’s not fair. I know it’s unjust. I know I won’t be able to recognize my body. I know it isn’t what I want.
But that’s how cancer is, isn’t it? Not what I want, and no way to control it. That’s how cancer is.