Sometimes, I feel like cancer is a huge anvil chain-wrapped around my neck. I drag it behind me, a slow and steady trudge. I bump people I love with it, and if I don’t watch carefully, I’ll flatten them with it.
Tonight is one of those nights.
I’m snippy, bitchy, if you want the truth, because I don’t want to have surgery tomorrow. I don’t want A spending the first day of Spring Break getting up early to take me to a hospital and sitting for a few hours, waiting for me to be done, only to come home and have to help and wait on me more. He’s rewatching The West Wing and on Season 6 right after President Bartlet’s MS flare up. Yesterday, he watched the episode where the president admits to his wife, Abbey, he can’t put his pants on and needs her help. As she helps him, he says something along the lines of things like that are the reason we vow in sickness and in health.
I’m tired of being the in sickness part of A’s vows.
I know my surgery tomorrow is minor. I’m likely to be home by noon. After tomorrow, I’ll be breastless, ovary-less, and fallopian tubes-less.
My mom wonders why I’ve become a sudden lover of tattoos. It’s my way of choosing the scars carved into my skin. A Phoenix here, an areola there and there, a bouquet of flowers beside them, a dream of a delicate collection of lacework, a symbol on strength somewhere, and a wise owl standing on a stack of books with spines that read “Nevertheless, she persisted” because McConnell’s rebuke to Senator Warren has so many implications.
There are nights when the anvil of cancer becomes heavy, becomes a bigger burden than it already is. My friends are spending Spring Break on vacations. I am spending Spring Break having an oophorectomy. A minor procedure, but hopefully, the last major surgery of my breast cancer hellscape.
I’m considering having a Harry Potter style wand tattooed on my stomach pointing at my scar with the “Reparo” spell whooshing out at it. It’s my way of making light what’s happened to me.
A friend told me the same adage those with tattoos often hear, “Think of what that’s going to look like when you’re older…when you’re old and wrinkled.”
Friend, if I live long enough to be old and wrinkled, I’ll smooth my skin out and show my tattoos to my grandchildren, telling them, “Grandma got this one when she finished her year of breast cancer treatment and this one after another surgery she needed and this one because she needed a reminder and this one because…”
These are my scars to bear, my weight to bear. Let me cope however I can. I hope you never stand in shoes like mine, but if you do, here’s the best piece of advice a fellow cancer recoverer told me, a wise beyond her years twenty something, who battled cancer her senior year of high school, “Do what you need to do to get through and be damned what anyone else tells you. If the cancer comes back, you didn’t do something wrong. If the cancer doesn’t come back, it’s not because you got lucky. Cancer is a bitch. Sometimes, she takes her beating and goes away. Sometimes, she takes her beating and comes back. Whatever happens, you were there for me when I dealt with my cancer, I’m here for you while you deal with yours. No judgements. Ever. No one gets it unless they’ve been there.”
People like her, like A, like my family, sometimes take my breath away with their clarity. I see myself as a weight, a burden they must bear, but I’m not. They choose to bear my burden with me, even on nights like this when the burden is heavy, when I’m prickly, when I’m lashing out as a coping mechanism. They understand it’s me dealing with a swirl of emotions I’m not equipped to handle. Who really is? Who really is equipped to handle the glimpses of mortality, of knowing your cells, the very life of your body, wants to kill you? I may have made peace with my lot, but the weight of the lot is there, dragging behind me.