Where hurdles and sprinting turned into waltzing in the rain with a bald head.
Goodbye 2012. Goodbye to worrying about the things I used to worry about before May 4th. It all pales in perspective to the worry that would try to consume me, especially in those first three or four days of learning about the very real cancer in my left breast. And later on, my right breast also.
It’s hard to believe it will be eight months on January 4th and I’m not done yet. I’m close, not in-the-home-stretch close, but close enough to say it.
This year, I said goodbye to my hair, all of it. My eyelashes & eyebrows. The hair in my arm pits, on my arms & legs. Even the stubborn billy goat hairs on my chin. It was nice not to have to shave this summer. And I missed the feel of a brilliant sun toasting up my skin to a soft caramel color.
This year I said goodbye to my nipples. As I write this I have none. I have breasts (thanks to tissue expanders), but no nipples. It’s strange. I try not to look at my reflection in the mirror but it’s so odd, I can’t help but look. I have no more bruises, but you can see the road I’ve traveled; mastectomy scars that wrap nearly to underneath my arms. I’d show you some pictures, but I care too much. No shame, only that you’ll feel bad for me. And I don’t want or need that. High thoughts of my wellness, is all I ask. Which requires your imagination, and mine. And so far, it’s working.
I’ve said goodbye to people too. Although they may not know it and probably didn’t hear me. Cancer is scary shit and people don’t know what to do or say to you when it happens. Especially when you’re young & beautiful & so f’ing positive like I am. Andrea says I get to be the example. I say, thank God for all my coaching tools & skills. And my health care team, who are some of the most amazing people.
Iremember the nurse who held my hand as I told a joke on the operating table, waiting for the knock-out that is anesthesia. I never got her name. I couldn’t see her face because it was covered in a mask. But when my super handsome anesthesiologist, Dr. Bailey, shot me whatever he shot me with, it burned like hell and I almost lept off the table. My right arm, the one with the IV in it, shot up off the table; kinda like when you touch something hot. I started crying. He said, “Oh, did that burn?” as I watched him squeeze my IV bag of saline up above my head. My nurse grabbed my hand or I grabbed hers. And she looked into my eyes and said soothing things to me. I asked her to keep holding my hand. She said, “It’ll be ok.” The burning stopped but my fear lingered. I had been so strong up till now. Strong for my family & friends. Strong for myself. Strong for my daughter, who sat by my side in pre-op with my pre-op nurse whose name was also Mindy. I loved that. There were lots of little messages along the way like that one. The Universe whispering to me, “I got you!” I told my joke & made them all laugh out loud. I loved hearing that too. I watched the nurse holding my hand turn her head, look at my surgeon and smile underneath her mask. I saw her cheeks rise up. And the best part was still to come, but I couldn’t tell them or I’d ruin the surprise… because in pre-op, while I changed into that sexy gown & socks they give you, I held each breast carefully while Andrea drew big happy faces on both nipples with a purple Sharpee. A couple days later, I’d check in with my surgeon and ask if he’d gotten my surprise. He grinned and laughed and grabbed my foot resting in the St. Joseph’s hospital bed and said he’d wished he’d had a camera. I told him we took pictures. He asked me to email them to his gmail account, and I did. The subject line: Happy Nips!
That was nearly 12 weeks ago. My hair is back. So are my feet, so-to-speak. And I’m also back to the yoga mat, which is another great gift 2012 brought to me. Yoga had floated around my peripheral universe since 2004 and yet I hadn’t gotten myself into a studio until cancer came along. Also acupuncture & Chinese herbs, essential oils, flower essences, crystals, Reiki & other long distance healings from healers I know personally and a few I’ve never met.
I fell in love with Downton Abbey & Merlin the magician, HGTV & the FoodNetwork while I convalesced. I walked, slowly around my neighborhood, reminiscing about the difference in my power walk speed and my convalescing walking speed. 2012 slowed me down entirely. And some days, most days, I simply counted the teensiest of things to be grateful about; like the smell of a rose, the view of a pine tree out my hospital room window, the deep care I received from nurses, family & friends via Facebook and many, many personal text messages.
I‘m happy to be saying Goodbye to you 2012. A year filled with so much. A lot of tears. A lot of fear. But mostly many miracles. All of them just appearing for me, out of nowhere. No hurdles required. No sprinting either. Just lots of gratitude and storytelling. And believing… God is in everything. In my tissue expanders, in my hospital bed sheets, in my IV line, and in that nurse’s hand holding mine.