Pain is Fear Leaving The Body

The therapist raised the table up so that she could slowly jerk my stiff ankle from side to side. It didn’t hurt, but the sensation was definitely uncomfortable. When she was done, she pushed her fingers into the outer ankle bone and lifted it up for a few seconds at a time. The pain I felt was on the inside ankle bone. It was excruciating and I cried out. Amelia asked if she should stop, but I told her no, that pain was needed to heal. She then palpated the inner ankle bone and I felt the tendons crack. When she was done, she shook my ankle from side to side again. It felt good, even though I knew it would ache a few hours later. Physical therapy is a special kind of torture that needs to be administered in order to heal. Now that the ache of it has finally settled in, I must remember that this pain is merely fear leaving my body……

Meggie called during her lunch break and asked me how I was doing. I explained that my ankle ached and I was bitchy because of the pain. Her comment was she didn’t feel sorry for me since all she’d been doing is throwing up for the last 3.5 months. Yes, my lovely daughter is going to make me a grandma in June. That gorgeous blonde haired, blue eyed wild fire that I gave birth to 24 years ago is going to grace us with another living soul to walk this planet. So how can I complain about learning to walk again, while she’s growing a new life within her body?

We hung up while she let her dogs out and hoped they’d come in quickly so she’d get a chance to take a good nap with all three of her Huskies. I latched the leash on Eddie the Rat and took him outside, and he lifted his legs on the bushes just outside my apartment entrance. Because of the pain, I couldn’t walk very far, so we headed back inside. My text alert went off and I entered my password into my phone. Meggie informed me that she’d thrown up before she could get the dogs outside. I replied that I was so sorry and wished there was something I could do to help her. Unfortunately I couldn’t but she knows if I could, I would. After all, I am her mother. And what mother doesn’t want to take care of their child, no matter what age they are.

Meg’s final text to me told me that she was going to take a nap. I told her I was going to wrap Christmas presents. I hate shopping, and I’m not very fond of Christmas, but I figured while I still had my gym shoes and brace on, I better get as much wrapping done as I could. I knew the pain from my therapy session would settle in before too long, and the tears would flow.

My friend Lori has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her battle is much more in depth than mine, because her’s is for her life. While mine is for the chance to be able to not walk with a limp. I watch Lori’s battle closely and I cheer her on every single damn day. I know she has watched my battle closely and though she’s got her own fight, she cheers me on. I’ll fight for my chance to walk without pain. But I’ll fight for Lori too. And I’ll also fight for Megan’s struggle too. We are in our own kind of pain. We can’t discount the hurt. We can only fight through it.

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She Wishes She Was a Dancer, And That She’d Never Heard of Cancer

I was planning on revising an erotic story for posting today. Wouldn’t you know one word would change my whole day and perspective. My erotic post is abandoned. In its place is a little story about a colleague of mine.

She walked into my office and shut the door. We often have private conversations in my office, so I wasn’t surprised that she closed my door. See, she and I have both been on the same path in the last two years. We’ve been sharing our stories of weight loss. About our reinvention of self. We’ve shared highs and lows. Happiness and anger. Laughed about the attention bestowed on us by men and women. Today though, she stood in front of me and said, “I have breast cancer.” I froze. I I then went to her, and hugged her. Told her I was sorry. She’s a strong one though. She said, “I’m not going to let this define me, Renee.” I smiled and told her, “You shouldn’t. Cancer is not the sum of who you are.”

She shared that her oncologist told her she is Stage 2A. She needs a lumpectomy and radiation. She will most likely not have to have chemo, but will be on Tamoxifen for the next five years. I had her tell me the rest of the story. How she found it herself and made sure that after a week of self breast exams, she called her doctor and they got her right in for a mammogram. The radiologist called the doctor in during the mammogram. They found a shadow under a cyst. A biopsy was done almost immediately and the next day she was informed she had a malignancy.

I watched her as she told me the story. She had such grace. She was so calm. She told me that as she’s been informing people that she’s had to comfort them. She was not upset by this. The whole time she spoke to me, she had this aura about her. This incredible lightness. She said, “Renee, the oncologist informed me that women that go through a significant weight loss are at a greater risk of breast cancer.” I looked at her stupefied and said, “How can this be? We’ve regained our health. How???” She said, “It’s something about our bodies, though they are stronger, healthier. They can become weak too.”

I’m telling you I wanted to leave work and go pick up a cheesecake. Just wanted to say, fuck it! Instead, I went home and changed into my gym clothes. Roger Darling and I headed to the gym. We worked out and then came home to eat a healthy dinner. I’m really thankful Roger Darling likes to feel me up a lot. I have yearly mammograms. And I make sure that I do a monthly self-exam. I’m thankful that my last test was normal. I’m thankful that though my colleague has been diagnosed with cancer, she went to the doctor and it was detected early. I will be her support. I will be strong because she is. And if she walks into my office, closes the door and falls apart. I will hold her till she comes back to herself again.

Beauty, Battle Scars, and Survival

“BATTLING CANCER MAY HAVE WEAKENED MY BODY BUT IT EMPOWERED MY SOUL.”
Denise Osborn, Survivor 1998

She looks at her breast in the mirror of the tattoo shop. Behind her there is the sound of the needle biting the skin of another willing participant enduring pain for beauty. For art. There are people milling about too. Talking. There’s music. Steady, with a heavy base. She hears and sees none of it. She just looks at the beauty of her body and her reflection. She realizes that her breasts do not signify her womanhood. They are merely flesh, fat, blood, milk ducts, and nerve endings. They’ve been used for nourishment and for pleasure. They have experienced pain, need and want. Recently the left one has experienced pain. From mammogram, biopsy, diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. It is now battle scarred.

It will never work the same way again. The nipple is there, but it is merely a prop. The breast has been reconstructed, but it will never feel the nuzzling closeness of a little one’s mouth when it’s time to eat. It will feel the hands, lips and tongue of a lover but it will never respond the same way. The nipple will never rise again. It merely exists. But it is there all the same. She is there all the same. She and her breasts are still viable. Still beautiful. Still her.

The artist decorated her breast with an array of pink petaled flowers and green leaves. Not to hide the scars, but to commemorate them. To honor her struggle. Her survival. She knows now after this journey, that her womanhood is not tied to her body parts. But to her spirit. Her battle scars are her womanhood now.