I’m not sure why I waited this long to start writing letters from the editor (possibly something to do with impostor syndrome and the fact that I am the most anxious of Anxiety Blobs), but I’ve been needing to talk to you guys. The fact that you’ve wandered into this corner of the Internet means there’s a good chance that we are tribe. Meaning we share a common culture.
If not for the pesky laws of space and time, we could all crowd into a giant blanket fort in my backyard, huddled around mugs of possibly spiked hot cocoa, telling our stories and communing. Instead, what we have is this place, and I love it because we built it together.
I’ve wanted to share with you this part of my journey, which began with a breast cancer diagnosis this past spring. I’m not gonna lie – it’s been hella weird. If I were going to write a sitcom about this, I’d call it “The Young(ish) and the Breastless.” Or maybe “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Oddly, no one from Hollywood has begged me to do so. Go figure.
Anyway, journey. Transformation. These are topics we love to write about at Sweatpants & Coffee, and I am decidedly in the midst of transforming. My breasts are gone. “Whatever,” says one of my fiercest friends. “You’re getting an upgrade! Your boobs tried to KILL YOU. The hell with them!” She’s sort of right.
Despite years of breastfeeding (and I mean years), regular exams, exercise, etc., cancer took hold in my milk ducts. My milk ducts! The gateways of the magical elixir of life! WTF! Tests revealed a tiny but insidiously fast-growing tumor in my right breast that had managed to spread to my lymph nodes. Righty was clearly a traitor and that meant Lefty was suspect as well, especially given my family history. I wasn’t going to wait around to see what kind of shenanigans she was up to. They both had to go.
These days, I’m sporting a couple of saline placeholders on my chest, a chemo port that I think gives me a rakish, cyborg vibe, and a downy bald head. And I’m having to learn to negotiate this world in my new body. If you’re in the market, I don’t recommend this model. The blue book on it must be shit. It runs out of gas frequently, breaks down at inopportune moments, and isn’t exactly show-worthy.
It’s strange to be a feminine-identifying woman whose primary feminine markers have either been lopped off or poisoned off. I’m me, but somehow more primordial. I’m becoming sleek, smooth, soft. I don’t have to shave, depilate, or shampoo. I can shower in 2 minutes flat. I don’t even need deodorant anymore – accidental lazy discovery.
I’ve been wanting to tell you guys about this because it’s so freaking bizarre and profound, and who better to share with than my weirdo tribe? But there’s this thing where people think I’m heroic for talking about this. Or for posting pictures of my bald head. And I don’t know how to cope with that. I mean, I say thank you, and I mean it, because I was raised right, but seriously? I’m not the hero in this story. The heroes are the doctors and nurses and technicians who are fighting the good fight. I’m not the villain – that’s cancer. I’m just the fucking battleground. Basically, I sit around while this happens and hope for the best. Sometimes, I document it.
I guess what I needed to say is that I know I’m not special. So many of you are feeling worse than I am. You’re grieving or depressed or in chronic pain or you have a terrible sinus infection or the baby won’t sleep. That is some real shit. It’s life. It’s hard. I want you to know that I see that. I see you. And I’m letting you see me. Because we’re all of us in this together, and for that, I am deeply grateful.
P.S. If you are a boob-owner, go get your damn mammogram!