It’s been a month since I last wrote. I don’t think that’s because I don’t need to write, but more because I am having an increasing difficulty with focusing. I am thinking maybe I do need to change my medium from writing to something more visual, because my writing, at least in my mind, has seemed to become more about reporting, and less about catharsis. It’s not that I haven’t had my share of tears. But I seem to be at a standstill, and I know it isn’t because there’s nothing to feel. I just kinda feel like I’m in one of those insulated, heavy, protective space suits floating out in a weightless space, attached by nothing more than an umbilical cord to prevent me from completely floating off. I’ve lost gravity. And that’s not that that’s a bad thing really. I suppose some people pay lots of money, and risk going to jail in search of such states of being. But I am not content here- I never was a good drug addict anyway. I feel stuck, frozen in some vast emotional terrain that goes as far as the eye can see, but has to have an ending somewhere.
I am sure a big part of my current emotional condition has been my survival persona. I was recently sharing with a confidant that up to this point, I felt like I felt when I was living with an abusive husband- at that moment of absolute terror, as I looked into his murderous eyes, I was so focused on getting out of the situation alive, that I wasn’t even aware of the world around me…..the ringing telephone….the crying and frightened children….the barking dog. I’ve been so focused on my cancer, and it’s treatment, that I haven’t been able to live. I still haven’t been able to ride a distance with Al on the Black Pearl (my new name for our motorcycle, which really isn’t black). I am too terrified. And rather than explore and work through that fear, I excuse it off- after all, I am still on blood thinning medication. Yes, this cancer has changed me. I used to be the one willing to take risks. And now I feel like I have regressed- a beat down wife of an angry and controlling disease, terrified of leaving the house because the first person who looks into my eyes might see what’s in there, and the emotional dam would irreparably break. But I don’t think the refining process is done yet, and maybe I do need to keep resting.
Pastor Ken Ortize, of Calvary Chapel Spokane, recently taught on Job and his sermons aired on CSN this past month (you can listen, if compelled, directly online):
In this sermon series he talked about the fear of death and the normalcy of that. He also reminded me yet again, as has been the message throughout my journey, that God has a purpose and He doesn’t take something away without replacing it with something better. I was grateful to be reconfirmed by God that I am right where I am supposed to be.
So I was fitted for prosthetic breasts a couple weeks ago. That entire experience was a little weird- undressing in front of the fitter, having her lift her top to show me her reconstructed breast. Her youngest client was 19, but she counted me in the group that is few and far between. I’ve only worn them a couple times. It seems silly to be around people who know me, and know what I’ve lost, and have silicon replicas- as if people don’t wonder, or think, but are too afraid to approach the subject. I think I am just becoming either too comfortable, or am afraid of becoming too comfortable of my flat chest. I read that the mythological Greek, matriarchal culture of the Amazons demonstrated some interesting practices- these women warriors would remove one breast so they could pull back on their bows more effectively. This strange mythological practice has become an encouragement and strength for some women who have lost breasts to cancer, and want to see themselves as warriors, survivors. But I’m not convinced my identity lies there. I have spent the last few years learning how to lay down my bows and arrows. Yet still, there does remain that warrior instinct that wants to defiantly present my flat chest in the face of those who are too afraid to ask……..what a paradox. The Aikido-ist (one who practices Aiki), would probably say that the true warrior is the one who embraces the pain, and our true knowledge comes not from learning to fight, but in learning to fall (ukemi). I wish we had an Aikido Dojo in town.
My “hole” is healed. I start my seven weeks of radiation treatment on Monday. I go every day (five days a week) for the next seven. I’m glad it’s seven, and not six, because in some weird way, numbers seem to matter. Not that seven is “lucky”, but that number is present throughout the Bible, and is definitely a sign from God. I received three small blue tattooed dots on my body this week. They mark the parameters where the radiation will be aimed, and they are permanent. I was also given a standard hospital/examing gown that I am to use daily for my treatment. I stuff it in a large Ziploc, and place it in a cubby so it is there the next day to be worn again. I told Al that since I have to wear a gown every day for the next seven weeks, I’d rather have my own designer collection. He suggested that I make a radiation symbol on the gown- you know, a kinda joke. So, I decided to do that. Why not? So just like with my head coverings, I set out to find a pattern and some material to sew my own gowns. Amanda and I picked out a cute black with pink dots, and pink tie-dye patterned material. I also found an iron-on patch of the radiation symbol to sew on a bright yellow gown, and a material with an ocean theme (squids and sharks and sea plants). I almost chose the surfing teddy bears, but that was a little too cutesy for me. We are still trying to have fun, even though this whole thing isn’t over yet.
I’m still not back to work. The radiation therapist (Dr. Desai) said that he thought trying to do three things was too much. A lot of women do work through radiation treatment, but having to be a mother to three children and working is more than he thinks I should attempt along with daily radiation. I see Dr. Patel next week, and will talk to him about the possibility of proceeding with the remaining chemotherapy I need while I am in radiation treatment, just so I can get it over with sooner and not drag it on. This inching along is the hardest part. In May it will be a year that I have been in treatment.
So that’s what’s been happening, and why I haven’t written. Maybe by my next letter I will have enlisted myself in some sort of art therapy practice, and can share it. I just want you all to know that I keep every single e-mail and letter I get, and I plan on doing something worthwhile with that someday……..