SEVEN DAYS LEFT
Getting down to the wire now.
Met with the plastic surgeon yesterday to review any additional questions I may have.
There are parts of me that feel like this is one of those experiences that don’t feel real as I move through the motions and emotions that feel almost disconnected from me. People I run into who have been reading my writings are appreciative of the “rawness” and the “vulnerabilities” I have been writing about.
What is interesting is that writing is an artistic expression and an art form for me. Always has been. When I start writing, I have no idea where it will take me. I alIow it to move through me and often end up in a place that when I started could never have never imagined I would finish with.
I have been writing since third grade. My writing started with my first journal, diary, actually, you know the one that had the lock on it with a thumbnail size key?
I read Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, and I was off and running with diary writing, beginning my first of many self imposed rules to come, writing every day. Of course like all my self-imposed rules I would eventually break, I would feel like a failure and then not write because I didn’t write every day. As I write this, I realize HOW FUCKING CRAZY this sounds.
I couldn’t remember the author of Harriet the Spy, (apologies to Ms. or Mrs. or Miss Fitzhugh, of course if she was a MR., it would just be one choice), so I looked up Harriet the Spy on Google (where all information lies) and sadly the first seven choices were all Harriet the Spy, the movie. Who starred in it, when it was released, ratings and all of the other information that movies include to force a decision if its worthy of your time (or your daughter’s time). I had to scroll down to find the actual book and the author. There is likely an entire generation of young girls who only reference the movie when the title is mentioned.
“Harriet the Spy.”
“Oh, I love that movie!” I can hear the nine year old girls say with delight.
Depressing. This book was a game changer for me in the way I began writing. I don’t think the movie could possibly stimulate that type of imagination this book did.
Fast forward a year or two and some on and off ‘secret’ diary keeping and Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, by the one and only Judy Blume entered my eleven year old world. Margaret gave me the permission I needed to release the daily writing rule that I was not adhering to anyway and just write when I wanted to make an entry. Margaret was the girl who made me feel like there were other girls out there. besides me who were concerned about getting their periods and worrying about developing breasts like I was. I couldn’t believe that Judy Blume created a book that validated the feelings I was having as normal.
Certainly our mothers weren’t having these discussions with us. Even though they were mostly mothers who grew up in the sixties, none of my girlfriends’ mothers or mine were having the period or sex talk. I’m guessing it was foreign territory to most moms in 1976. They probably wanted to, but because their moms didn’t, they likely didn’t know where to begin. Thank you Judy Blume for stepping up to the plate. Margaret became my best friend as I must have read that book ten times. It almost felt risqué reading it.
A few years later, Anne Frank stepped into my life. Besides the depth of her actual story, her writing style and her personal entries about her relationship with her mother gave me the permission to explore my own feelings in my writing. My diary started to move into a journal as I was exposed to incredible English, history and writing teachers in Jamestown School in 1976.
Anne Frank was a significant character in my life. I am disheartened when I ask any young girl if they have read her in school and they respond with a blank stare. The Diary of Anne Frank should be mandatory reading for every young person because it has layers of character, history, life experience and emotion.
Ahh emotion. No shortage of emotion these days. My writing is no longer in wire bound blank notebooks as it has moved to my Mac laptop (except when I am at the beach since I have a no technology self imposed rule for my beloved beach and sand and laptops are not a good mix anyway). The typing of emotion is actually more productive for me now as it creates a feeling of Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote, typing away at her mystery novels. The outlet of Medium has given me a place to land my endless emotions in a way that makes me feel like a real writer instead of the closet one I have been for over forty years. A place to actually put my rawness, my truth out there about the life experiences I have gone through and am going through validating the “you are not alone” feelings we all seem to struggle with.
I am not alone. As my writings have shown me by the pouring out of responses, I am not alone. Double mastectomies and reconstruction almost seem like a common cold these days as everyone knows someone or is that someone who has gone through this. The only analogy I can come up with is my only full term pregnancy.
When I was first pregnant with my beautiful son and no one except David, my husband at the time, and I knew. I remember walking around the mall (when we actually left our homes to shop) feeling the pregnancy feeling and wanting to scream out to everyone that I WAS PREGNANT! No one knew, yet the fluttering and excitement I felt inside me was like a badge of honor. Having cancer a second time in less than two years of course isn’t as exciting, but I would say that like a pregnancy, it does provoke dialogue. At times I want to scream out, I HAVE CANCER A SECOND TIME. FUCK, as I walk around in my life and pass people on the streets I don’t know and who don’t know me or my diagnosis as we smile kindly at each other as we pass.
“I heard you were sick,” is a regular comment. “You look amazing!” is another one. Usually the two go hand in hand. I myself have said this prior to my first go around thinking it was helpful or not knowing what else to say. Actually, I enjoy both comments immensely. Using my pregnancy analogy again, it is a reminder of that high level of importance we young mothers put on looking “amazing” soon after delivery. It is always rewarding to hear how great we look. That was and probably still is a goal of us “aiming for perfection” moms.
What a load of crap. The outside may have looked amazing, but new moms insides are bat shit crazy. We don’t have the wisdom of reflection on who the fuck that woman was until many years after our children have grown. But NO ONE can tell a new mom that. When you get cancer, the way you look on the outside is almost insignificant, because you are consumed by what is growing inside of you. Having cancer automatically makes non cancer people equate it with sickness. When a person with that mindset crosses your path and you look like you always have looked, you look even better to them. Win Win. Of course this is because my cancer was caught early and I didn’t have to have chemo.
So new moms strive for outside perfection hiding the hormonal insanity that cannot be denied. Early detection, (new or recurring) cancer women look great because they are not sick because it was caught early. Their outsides still look the same, but their insides like new moms are filled with anxiety and distress. The difference is that new moms have their little babies to enjoy and distract and look forward to. We have body part removal.
All the things that new moms realize, women facing a double mastectomy and plastic boobs also experience. This surgery will change the way I walk, dress, move through my world as I know it, have intimacy, take a shower, go to the beach and hug someone. The full circle of having a delightful pregnancy and having all of those feelings at that time and now repeating them but for a much different reason bring me to my knees with remarkable self awareness and deep fear.
I remove my cape today to prepare for the vulnerability these next seven days ahead of me brings. I am grateful for so much in my life but I am also fucking pissed off so my cape gets folded and put in the trunk for a little while.
My two first diaries way before cancer.