My dear Sweatpants & Coffee tribe,
To say that I am a different person now than I was just a few years ago is technically true but a gross understatement. It’s like saying Niagara Falls is a waterfall or that Star Wars is essentially a family squabble.
The truth is that we are all changing, all the time, every minute. On a cellular level, we are imperceptibly and continuously dying and regenerating. Which means we’re sort of Time Lords. (Doctor Who nerds get it.)
I wasn’t thinking about this the other day when I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I don’t look in the mirror after a shower if I can help it, these days, and if I do, it’s to look at my hair. After years and years of hair down to the middle of my back (short, by Hawaiian standards), I’m still not used to this fluffy, flyaway stuff that’s grown in since chemo.
You guys. I’m sad about my boobs. I just am. Most of the time, I don’t think about them at all, and I don’t for one second regret having them removed, though I know many of my fellow breast cancer survivors feel differently. I wanted them gone. I was ready to scorch the earth after my diagnosis, and that’s pretty much what happened, inside and out. It’s so strange to be left with numbness where I literally once nurtured my young.
I miss having sensation in my chest. I miss softness. I miss being able to follow a complicated story without fuzzing out. I miss reaching into my brain folder and being able to effortlessly retrieve the right word or memory. I miss the parts of me that were lost.
We lose parts of ourselves to grief and time and the everyday wear and tear of life. And I think we’re supposed to feel that loss. That doesn’t mean we don’t accept what grows in their place. It means we are capable of holding complexity.
It means I can be frustrated at these new, undignified limitations while also reveling in the freedom of not caring what other people think. Because you know what? Screw it. If you’ve burnt yourself to the ground in order to survive and then gathered the pieces that were left, stuck them together with chewing gum and Scotch tape, and carried the fuck on, you know what matters and what doesn’t and how very little time there is to worry about it. It means you have perspective, and it’s not a great trade – I’d rather have my old body and parents who are alive and a brain that works right – but this is what you get.
So, you feel the bad stuff. You take an internal inventory to see what you’re working with now. And you keep figuring it out.