It’s now 11 years since I found myself on the front lines of cancer – I entered this second decade of my saved life a few weeks ago, and thinking about the enormous gift of time I’ve been given made me remember the last installment of the blog I did when my 7 year anniversary was approaching. Called My New Boobs, we originally posted the 10 chapters so the last would hit in this month of October.
So in honor of my life, and yours, and all the lives we love so much, that have or are now fighting the cancer fight, I’d like to re-post my reflections on having the entire experience in the rear view mirror –
Something Debbie and I most fervently wish for all.
The Greatest Gift
My new boobs and I have been living together for many years now. They are very much a part of me, to the point where sometimes I forget what an arduous journey it was to get them.
I can also declare with complete honesty that having cancer was not such a bad thing after all. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and will do my utmost to never have to face another bout, but when I consider how I was “BC” and how I am now, I think of the disease as the wake up call that helped me truly understand and treasure the incredible blessing it is to be alive, to be loved, to be part of something that is bigger than just myself.
Prior to getting sick, I was a seriously high-octane woman. I never really relaxed. I didn’t know how to shut out the zillion thoughts always racing across my brain. I thrived on energy and stress and pushing the limits of what I could do. I didn’t appreciate what a trusted vessel my body had been. Living inside my unscarred, untested, pre-cancer body, I pushed it relentlessly, had a lot of complaints about what I considered its failings, and held it to exceptionally high standards.
Today, I’m still an over-achiever, but I’m not jet fuel anymore. I can slow down, sit on the porch rocker or watch mindless television and not feel as if I’m wasting time. I can walk our dog without needing to elevate my heart rate. I am able to tolerate some dust without reaching for the furniture polish and can cut myself some slack should I misplace my cell phone or keys.
I’m also completely at peace about getting old. Before cancer, I dreaded aging, and looked upon creases in my skin as an affront to my strenuous efforts to be strong and limber and young. I read about the in-office procedures many women had at the dermatologist’s office during their lunch hour, and figured that as the years marched on I’d be going for Botox and chemical peels and whatever other miracles could be called upon to erase the effects of time.
Now, I look at birthdays as accomplishments. Every year that comes to me is proof that I won my cancer war. And while I wish my face didn’t fold into saggy lines along my chin and neck I’m actually proud to have some cellulite in my thighs, and to feel the ache of muscles after a particularly hard work out. Those sensations, those lines and wrinkles and dimples are the trophies I wear as proof of my victory over disease.
That’s not to say I don’t sometimes mourn the loss of youthful beauty. Every now and then I’ll stand in the bathroom and pull the edges of my face up and remember how taut and smooth it once was. I’ll fantasize for a moment or two about facelifts and liposuction, but then the phone rings, or the dog barks and I move on with my day. I guess realizing your life could be ending sparks a true appreciation for the life you still have.
Before cancer, I was a pencil thin woman who watched every morsel of food I ate and was eternally at odds with my figure. Now I’ve got tits and ass. I love a good porterhouse steak, enjoy the occasional martini and no longer consider ice cream to be a once a year treat.
I suppose I’ll always be a nut about maintaining my weight, but I don’t let the scale stand between me and a particularly delicious cookie. I run and spin and swim for aerobic health and lift weights for bone strength. I don’t care if my arms have bat wings or my legs aren’t always smoothly shaved. I head out to the school bus stop in my sweats and t-shirt and if I miss the poppy seed stuck in my teeth I no longer cringe in embarrassment at having gone outside without being perfect.
It took cancer to make me realize that in all the ways that matter, perfection is a plateau I’ve already reached: I am married to my soul mate, we have our kids, we’re happy in our lives and my boobs don’t give me any more trouble.
Whatever it took to get here was worth the ride, and I’m determined to drive this highway until that last stop sign appears. Hopefully I’ll be an old lady by then, but one thing is for sure: no matter how old I get my boobs will be forever young.
And I’ll be forever grateful for all they taught me.