A year ago today, they slashed my left tit. In fact, they threw it out with hospital trash. And then a cancer friend sent me an article about how California homes were being heated and air conditioned with energy from burning, smouldering, hospital trash. My left tit was hospital trash.
But today, you wouldn’t even know that in that spot where my left tit once was, there is a beautifully crafted fake tit. The scars are practically invisible. You might not know because my plastic surgeon is an artist. An artist who makes plastic tits that hide the cancer scars.
I feel good now. I can run and jump and lift my arms above my head. I can travel and sleep on my belly with one arm crooked to the side to relieve a tiny bit of pressure from the left side. I feel good, and I am healthy.
And yet, I am changed. I look into the eyes of my cancer friends, and I know they know, what its like in here, in this space of “I’m OK” that emerges sometimes from cancer, this space that is so coveted, and so confusing, and hopefully, forever.Mostly though, it doesn’t feel like much. Just another day, with a fake tit and the knowledge about how chemotherapy feels, tucked away in my brain next to information about how to make oatmeal pancakes and how to wrap the corners of a Christmas present.
So today, I posted on Facebook. Before, I thought Facebook wasn’t the place for cancer, wasn’t the place for telling, wasn’t the place for amputated tits and bald heads and fertility catastrophes. Except I was wrong. Now I could care less what the people of facebook think, especially if they think it is “over sharing.” Because of Facebook, I connected with Devon and Jessica and Tiffany. Because of social networking, I know Catherine and Ashley and MaryAnne and Kristina. Though I would never ever call myself a survivor*, I survived because of, and with these other young people I found in cancer land. I repeat: I would not be able to survive without my cancer tribe. Because of cancer in these public spaces, I count myself part of what feels like an underground network of young people with cancer. An underground network built by lady muscles. An underground network, where Jessica says to me exactly what I said to Catherine, where I sat to Devon what MaryAnne said to me, where the stories are familiar and the ache known, the tentative celebration understood. So today, I posted on Facebook. If even one person sees that post, and knows they can come to me because it happened to them, that is enough. That alone, is reason enough to be public.
A year ago today, I started the day off with two tits, and I woke up from anaesthetic with only one tit left. A year ago today, someone scrawled across my chart, no evidence of disease. I haven’t a clue what the world holds, how the future will unfold, or what will come next. But I do know that me and my fake tit are out to live with all the life we got, with all the fire we feel, with all the love we know. And to me, that’s public and real and known. And it’s honest and true, and it feels good to say so.
So. A year ago today, they slashed my left tit. I called it an amputation, they called it a mastectomy. I didn’t learn jack shit from having cancer. But I did learn from the people who showed up for the hard times again and again, how to love. They showed me how to love, by loving me. And so it goes. Cancer here, there, everywhere.
Stop saying I am a fighter. Stop saying I won a battle. Start a fight against toxins. Win a battle against capitalism. That is what I need.
A year ago today, they slashed my left tit. I can barely recognize the picture I took of myself that day, after I sent everyone home from the hospital. How odd, to know I have been to myself, so wildly unfamiliar. It is time now, to follow the heart. To know the world from a body that feels good, and healthy, and strong, and dare I say, hopeful. Hopeful, a sensation I forgot when I had cancer. Hopeful, it is back.