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FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF


FACE DOWN, CAPE OFF

“Let’s go for a walk,” I said chirpy and wide eyed.

“Yes, great idea,” Michael replied. “I won’t go to the gym. Cliff Walk?”

This past Sunday was a beautiful crisp almost winter day. The use of the word crisp is questionable here. Some of my peers would say freezing cold, but there was no wind on this sunny electric New England day and this makes all the difference in the decision to walk outside by the ocean or not. Michael and I are a robust couple. We like a brisk chilled walk and as long as we are both able to move our legs, we march forth whenever we get the chance. We know that soon enough will be hibernation time around these parts so when nature calls, we listen.

A walk with my seventy one year old partner is no chump change. He moves at a quick fire pace with his super long legs and I find myself with my much shorter legs taking take two steps to his one. It is a workout I love because a walk in nature is more than exercise for my physical self; it is often a spiritual reconnection. The deep breaths of fresh clean ocean air, the sounds of birds and waves create a calm peaceful serenity that a one hour workout at the gym will never be able to compete with, (sorry Kathy Martin). Besides the pace, which is at an invigorating clip, the mileage is also not for the faint hearted. Cliff Walk is 5.6 miles start to end, but that is only half of it because one must return unless Uber is waiting at the end for you. Of course anyone can walk just a portion of this beautiful gem right here in our little state (among so many other gems), but for us we just keep going, right past Rosecliff and Salve and the Chinese Tea House, right past Doris Duke’s house and almost to Bailey’s Beach but we take that pretty right turn instead on to Ledge Rd. past houses I can’t even imagine having to take care of.

The total walk for us this past Sunday was 8.5 miles. Air in our lungs? I’d say. There is nothing like the feeling of this walk. We chat, we walk in silence, we laugh, we negotiate real estate with few other walkers who we notice barely move to the right forcing us to step aside to let them pass on more than a few occasions. This drives Michael bananas, I don’t really notice; I just move, it is easier than getting myself worked up because of someone else’s behavior on a walking path. But I get it too, as we also noticed that the walkers on this day were not making eye contact, not looking at us, not engaging with even a brief smile or hello and this made us both sad. But we marched on as we discussed the political landscape and the ripple effect it may be having on humanity in general. Right along with the physical effects of cell phone use and the perpetual state of looking down for our actual heads, we wondered why people were not chirping back to our Hellos!

These conversations and thoughts all come up on a walk. There is no distraction of cell phone or the radio blaring music or bad news into our ear space giving us plenty of open brain space to converse or be silent amidst the beauty. Silence between two loving people is a gift that I don’t take for granted. I have been on the opposite end of the world of silence in relationships where silence was so loud, it made my heart hurt. I can’t ever have that feeling again. And I don’t with Michael or actually anyone in my life. Those relationships have left the building gradually and mostly gracefully and I march on. Shedding more layers of unnecessary burdens and drama that serves nothing other than making me feel bad. And my choice these days is to feel good whenever possible. Walking makes me feel good.

I recall the walks to school my son and I used to take on occasion. We didn’t really live a traditional walking distance from his elementary school, but I insisted on walking sometimes just to shake things up and teach him on our walks safe walking. How to look both ways, how to make sure that on a busy street that didn’t normally have walkers to always look to your right and left to make sure cars and trucks didn’t pull out without noticing you. Then there were the unintended lessons of conversations that would come up that no car ride could pull out of my son. Like cooking in the kitchen with your child, a walk to school creates an environment that just simply encourages communication because there is space to allow the flow. A walk reminds us how lucky we are we can. That we are not stuck in a hospital bed wishing for one more day in the fresh air like my brother did on his last leg of his young journey, or that we have the ability to actually choose. Do we want to take the bus? One of our two cars? Our bikes? Or a walk? Lucky to have options and this multitude of choices was yet another unintended lesson because I made the time to make it happen. If not then, when? My son is going to be 21 this month and time did fly by. Those walks are like my favorite jewels in my chest that I get to pull out and remember that I have them. Luckily for me, I have lots of these little golden nuggets. I know that losing my brother at such a young age to cancer taught me an intrinsic value of seizing the moment in a way that my son got to benefit from. I don’t know if his memories of his childhood are the same memories I have of his childhood. My mother sometimes used to bring up her memories to me that I had completely different takes on. This is history, perception is reality especially the further way we get from the time we reflect back on.

As we made our way back on the Bellevue Ave side for a change of scenery, in front of all of the mansions instead of the flip side, we felt so happy and cleaned out in a way that walks outside on cold days stir the pot. Down Memorial towards First Beach with a stunning view and finally that last leg down Gibbs headed home. We are lucky because of his house proximity to all things Newport, cars get to stay where they should live, in the driveway as often as possible. Looking at the Christmas decorations and the homes as we peppered our final walking conversations with our health commentary.

“How does your body feel?” Michael asks me. “Are you tired?” “My hips feel a little tight- I’ll roll when we get home.” “I may take a nap,” I say. “I think I’ll finish the paper,” he says back. We relish in our good fortune of simple choice, grateful for the ability to make the observation. Then we continue in comfortable quiet. I look down for a brief moment and my eyes land on a red white and blue and yellow object. What? Are my eyes seeing things? Is that….. Wonder Woman? Holy coincidence. Yes. It was a small plastic toy that perhaps a little one dropped on her or his walk that day, maybe it fell out of the stroller or her hands as she was going on her little journey out into the cold with her parents, but there Wonder Woman was, waiting, face down, prostrate, cape off. Not defeated, but rather waiting patiently for me to scoop her up and give her a new home. She didn’t need her cape, she had me. I couldn’t believe that after that 8. 5 mile walk with the man I love, I would at the end of my walk find a cape-free Wonder Woman. There are no coincidences and perhaps she was there to remind me that yes, Alayne, nature always serves you. The cape is not the power, you are your power. Of course it could have also been just a plastic toy dropped randomly, but I get to choose what my own perception of reality is here. So I marched forth with my new friend reminding me of all I know but sometimes forget along the path.


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LUMPECTOMIES, LIPOSUCTION AND WTF

LUMPECTOMIES, LIPOSUCTION AND WTF

It all started with a lumpectomy, actually two lumpectomies, when the removal of cancer became synonymous with plastic surgery. I tend to be Au Natural girl, I don’t really like the whole plastic surgery, botox, fillers, and all of the other crap we women have been told to do so we look better, younger, prettier, firmer. I have to give the docs credit for making reconstruction a major piece of a double mastectomy; reconstruction conversations go hand in hand and I almost forgot that this part of the surgery was optional.

When I went in for my double mastectomy almost six months ago, I never really gave much thought to all of the extra elements I would be facing simply because I couldn’t imagine my life without breasts. Who implanted that meme in my brain anyway? Was it an organic thought or was the thought much deeper stemming from my sneaking peaks at Playboy magazine of women and their luscious bodies when I was prepubescent. Hugh Hefner died the same day I was headed into my final surgery this past Thursday, September 28th. So the irony of this does not go unnoticed as I read the mass amounts of tributes and criticisms of his controversial existence as provocateur, free speech proponent versus his reputation as an exploiter of women, misogynist and free sex capitalist. I read a piece today in the NYT by Ross Doutat (not a big fan of Hugh) called Speaking Ill of The Hef which criticized the underbelly of the Playboy mansion and Hef’s line leader reputation behind the scenes. This got me thinking about my decision to go forth with reconstruction, a less bunny like term for the alternative-“breast implants.” As I sit here feeling like I got run over by the Patriots linebackers and have the bruises to prove it, I have started to question the auto pilot decision to go through this optional surgery just so I can look like my previous female self.

Dr. Hottie, my plastic surgeon who is the consummate professional and expert in plastic surgery and reconstruction is an artist as well. He was sure to sculpt and measure so my end result would be no less than a work of art. What this equates to is his recommendation to perform a small amount of liposuction during surgery too so that he could take fat from another part of my body and mold and shape it like Silly Putty filling in the holes and pockets that were left from the mastectomy. Every woman I ran into who had some semblance of knowledge about mastectomy/ reconstruction surgery spoke with sisterhood envy that I would be getting “free” liposuction aka belly tuck etc. There is nothing to envy here; trust me. The thing is that my belly was already flat. Remember I pay dearly for this flat belly with my overpriced boutique gym classes that I wouldn’t give up for anything. Dr. M, while looking for areas of my body to lipo determined what I already knew; we would be heading a bit more south for the usable (aka sides of my thighs) fat. Little did I know that exchanging the tissue expanders with new and improved final silicone would be a walk in the park compared to the lipo part of this last surgery. Who knew that removing fat and moving it to a different part of your body in its twisted Twilight Zone way would be so uncomfortable. Remember the old Jane Fonda workouts in the eighties? Remember her “Make it burn” one liners she belted out as she challenged us to do one more crunch in our thong leotards and leg warmers? So picture the decision to finally get off the couch and do your first Jane Fonda VHS tape workout after not exercising for like your whole life. You make it through the 60 minute tape out of breath and feeling burns in parts of your body like you never felt. You go to bed and when you wake up the next day you realize that you have muscles in your abdomen you never knew existed and you can barely get up off the couch.

This is what liposuction feels like. This too shall pass for sure, but where I thought the pain would be it is not, as a matter of fact, my upper body except for the too tight compression bra I am forced to wear for the next two weeks 24/7 is nothing compared to the areas that were liposuctioned. This leaves me to think why the fuck would any woman voluntarily do this to themselves. I would put a photo of the bruising that happens in the areas where the fat was removed, but I don’t want to freak out the women about to go for their final surgery. All of this is normal, all of this I was warned about and since I totally trust my doctor, I don’t care at all about this because I do know this is temporary. But on the coincidental timely passing of Hugh Hefner and my surgery, I am wondering why I put myself through this elective surgery. Was it so I could have the cosmetic replacement that society has told me is inherently defining as female? What defines female? Surely I am not, with the wisdom of retrospect now, shallow enough to think that breasts are what constitute my sole source of femininity. Don’t get me wrong here, I have absolutely no regrets on my decision. I have loved playing dress up Barbie for this past summer. As a matter of fact, my decision was not even a decision to begin with. My choice to move ahead with replacement parts was so automatic, this is what I find myself questioning. The auto decision. For someone who is so non cosmetic non invasive thinking when it comes to my female world, I am actually surprised that I didn’t think about this decision with a little more curiosity before I jumped into the rabbit hole of breast reconstruction.

As I sit here on my third day post surgery waiting for my single bra that God knows the price that was charged to the insurance company to dry (because there is not a chance I want two of these contraptions), I wonder if all of this will ever be over. I mean I have had my back, my breasts, my underarm, my stomach all prodded and poked to keep me whole. I have had radiation, more than I care to have mammograms and MRI and ultrasounds and drains and plastic surgery. I have had nipple sparing cosmetic surgery and fat sucking liposuction. And my breast cancer was caught early twice. For a young woman who had never had surgery except for a lazy eye when I was in second grade, I have surely caught up with it all in the last two years. As I sit here with the weight of the 475 cc in one breast and 495 cc in the other silicone replacement, waiting for my bra to dry, I find myself wondering what was the point to all of this. Is there one? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I made the decision to march forth with these new bad ass wonder woman centerpieces that now reside on my upper body, but this last surgery has given me a different perspective in this decision. I am guessing I will be thinking about this much more as time and my new breasts march on.