A few days ago, a cancer-buddy wrote an article, in which she asked, Why not me? about her cancer. I remember the night she Facebook messaged me about her diagnosis. I was like— why is this girl I barely knew in high school messaging me? She was so much cooler than me, what could she possibly want now? And then I read her message and my world began to spin and I dialled her cell phone as fast as I possibly could, and I wished I was in New York City so I could wipe her tears and make her ginger tea, but I wasn’t so instead I tried as hard as I could to be a source of solace, a place of comfort, a friend who got it from the inside. Cue, beginning of a very intense and very awesome friendship, forged mostly over text messages. I now completely adore this girl I never knew in high school. She’s funny and sassy and smart and sensitive. Thank the goddesses she came into my life, except, she came in because of cancer, so fuck that- but I cherish her friendship. And she’s an amazing writer- and she wrote about the shift the other day, the shift from “why me” to “why NOT me?”
So, turning inward— WHY NOT ME? It’s a really excellent question, especially for me as I stand on the brink of the life-altering event of the birth of our twins.
Why not me, the one who needed a surrogate? My hands smell divine. This afternoon, I gingerly stepped into a circle of five women. My beloved surrogate, with whom I have been brutally honest about why we have chosen surrogacy, and who accepts the frustration and grief about having to choose surrogacy that exist alongside my hopefulness/excitement/gratefulness with open arms. Her doula Lori, who is so whole and present and who with her eyes urges everyone else to be as whole and as present. And Leia, the head of Canadian Fertility Consulting, the company that hooked Angela and I up together in the first place.
It was beautiful. There were rose petals and little bowls of herbs and thoughtfully arranged rocks and shells, and tiny woven dragonflies for the baby girls. Leia and Lorie sat near Angela and I, loving us, while we sat together, our hands on each others’ hearts, and we all listened to melodic, comforting music about motherhood. We sat together, and wrote out our fears and worries, and we burned them in a clay pot. They prepared two hot tubs of water, and massaged our feet, readying us: her to birth me and my babies into motherhood and life, me to receive this gift from her and mother the babies. It was one of the first times, one of the most profound times, that I was recognized as an expectant mother. They held the space for me to express the sadness about how my babies are not inside of me, and they also held the space for me to say, gingerly, that I wanted to let go of that sadness, and that I wanted alongside that letting go, to celebrate how reflected I feel in Angela’s choices, how grateful I feel to be walking this path with a woman who I respect and love and so consistently learn from. They held the space. We listened to each other, and passed a wide-lipped, wooden bowl of salt among us, adding each of us to it’s contents, pouring in herbs and love and essential oils and hope and flower petals and truth and sea-shells and dreams. And we moved our hands through the salt, and we hoped and talked and imagined and set intentions, and our hands smell divine. So why not me, the one who needs a surrogate? Why the hell not?
Why not me, the one who had breast cancer at 29? Sometimes I wonder in awe, at the depth and breadth of community that supported me through diagnosis and chemo and mastectomy. There’s people who cooked. People who flew to be with me for chemo. People who explained pathology reports. People who exercised with me. People who sent cards. People who bought boob cakes for boob going away parties. People who sat with me when I was so distraught through the surgeries and made silly jokes just because we needed some laughter in those tears. People who I found because they got cancer at the same time and/or same age as me. People who treated me normally even though I was bald. People who knew it wasn’t over when it was over. It still fucking sucked hard core like nothing in my life has ever fucking sucked, but there were people. And why not me? It happens to everyone. Anyone. And what am I, but one of many, trying to love and live in this world? It was extraordinarily humbling. It made me look in the eyes of strangers, of enemies, of people who I might have otherwise disregarded (or at least, not thought deeply about) and wonder, what’s going on, behind those eyes? How do they live their lives? Who do they love, and is their heart broken? What is hard for them? Why have the struggled? Cancer made me wonder about all the things I couldn’t see about people, because it felt so impossible that I could be in the world and people (often) didn’t seem to notice I had cancer, or thought the wigs were real hair, or assumed I was some version of “normal.” I used to wonder what they would think, how horrified they would be, if they knew? And so I wonder, what I don’t know about all those other people, then? Besides, there was a person who wrote a song about how much it fucking sucked with me. Who does that- who writes a kick ass song and makes a music video about their cancer? Me. I do that. So why not me? It fucking sucks, but it sucks more to be in the place asking, why me, and seeing everyone’s puppy dog sad eyes, than it sucks to be in the place asking, why not me, and now listen to this fucking awesome song that I wrote with my friend and it totally rocks? I can’t wait until I can say, and also watch this kick-ass music video that will punch you in the gut and make you think about young/er adult breast cancer.
Why not me, the one who raged with anger and grief about cancer and fertility, almost exactly a year ago at the Callanish retreat? At the point in time during which I went on retreat, all I could do was look around me and rage that, of the seven others, only one was my age. Then there was an age gap of twenty five years before the next person. All I could do was think whhhhyyyyy mmmmmeeeee? All I could say into the circle was, “It isn’t fair that this happened to me at this age, it isn’t fair.” Everything was about my age. I looked out at the other participants and thought to myself, they’ve all had kids, or had the option to. They’ve all had careers, or had the option to. They’ve all had time to love and to travel and to whatever. I was so angry, so jealous, so incensed at how much time they’d had before they got slammed with cancer.
But you know what? Of those others, there was one who was really special to me, and she was more than twenty-five years older than me. I would look at her and think, if I grow up like that, I’ll be all right. She was the one who finally looked at me, her eyes glassy with tears and said, “Chels, it doesn’t matter how old we are. No one wants to die. And yes, it matters that you haven’t had babies yet. Yes, it matters that cancer destroyed your baby plans. Yes, your age matters, but not really. You will be a mama.” And now she is gone. And she already had grown kids and a closet full of hippie skirts and so many afternoons with her beloved. And here we are, a year later, and I wish I could email Char and get an immediate and sassy response, as we lay in wait for the birth of our baby girls. It’s not how I thought it would be, and soon enough, I’ll get those baby girls, but Char won’t be here to smell their baby-smell. So age is just a number and at the end of the day, and it turns out, Char was right- age doesn’t matter. I mean it matters but it doesn’t. It matters, and it doesn’t. Try holding those two things together, at once, compassionately, side by side.
It matters and it doesn’t….Why the hell not me?