Cancer is a single mutated cell that grows and overtakes other cells. My cancer grows on top of my body and suffocates what is underneath until the entire area is dead and white. A blank slate to burrow itself deeper and deeper down, this cancer has learned to regrow with brute force. It’s getting smarter about how my body fails to fight, like a friendly guard dog that lays down with a wagging tail, it has all finally taken its toll. My cervix was a battle ground. I went to war with surgeries, biopsies and cryotherapy; I lasered and prayed. Once, I tried to convince myself it really didn’t exist at all, I drank probiotics and meditated thinking I could wish it all away. I didn’t win and I didn’t lose. I’m still here, aren’t I?
I didn’t even notice. I plowed through the day running errands and glancing at my watch to make sure I was on-time for my next meeting. Somewhere in the chaos of daily entrepreneurship, I finally located the vintage typewriter that had been on my wish list for years. It’s residing in the box, in my living room because for the life of me, I can’t find time to crack it open and enjoy the soft, clicks of Corona’s model S. I open the lid to to find the intoxicating aroma of an antique bookstore. It smells like memories. This thing has been around since 1924 and I’ve only been cancer-free for a single year.
This morning at 9:30am, I’m undergoing a hysterectomy, but you see… I’m lucky. Lucky in the way that I had a team of people behind me watching my health, my dysplasia and cancer status and medical professionals who genuinely cared about my outcome. Today, I hope the cancer is gone. Today, will mark the first day of the rest of my life.
Last year at this moment, I was home. My knees were pulled up to my stomach and I was on my side in an uncomfortable reclining chair that was my bed for a week. I had birthed 2 children and the level of sheer agony after my radical hysterectomy was incomprehensible. I begged my mother to take me back to the hospital and sometime after midnight, I was in the E.R. being pumped full of sugar water and narcotics. Days later, I woke from a mental fog to finally begin to understand the grief and process. Just 13 days before my hysterectomy, I was convinced I was pregnant again. “One More!” I readied my arms in cheer. Knowing that they wouldn’t wait as kindly as they had for Daniel to take my cervix, ovaries, tubes and uterus out, it would have been risky. My period was late, as I’ve grown accustomed to, but this time it felt different.
But there it is, for the last time, in my garbage can. That wrapper is a reminder of the times I’ve fist pumped into the air and the times I sat and cried deeply. Men most likely won’t understand this, as I spent my 20′s praying to not get pregnant and my 30′s praying to have all the babies in the world. There it goes, I think, my body’s last attempt to do the only thing it knows how: create more of itself.
I knew, deep down I couldn’t be pregnant. What my cancer had robbed me of, was intimacy. Everything was painful. There was no, “sexiness” in looking down at the bed to see splotches of red, angry, blood. It had weighed on both of us. He and I didn’t make it out of this alive. We made it to Christmas. (Or at least we pretended in a fashion that portrayed what happens when two people desperately love their children, but not their life.) The evolution of my life is both devastatingly-simple and alarmingly-complex. He is gone. I am here. The cancer is gone. I am here. Most importantly, I am here.
Writing tonight, took commitment. Client work has taken precedence over my own creativity lately. Signing on to figure out what so needed to be heard was foreign to my fingertips. I took pictures of the typewriter, but my laptop wouldn’t read the memory card. I almost gave up on coming here at all. Am I doing this to escape the late-night hum of my brain ensuring i’ll tackle deadlines early, or to somehow make sense of the fact that I talked about grieving, but I didn’t really ever grieve at all?
The bra and underwear sets that use to tease my self-esteem now proclaim, “You can wear me.” At least, for a little while. It’s hard to feel like woman when the parts that make me the gender I am, have become weapons. My cervix, uterus, tubes and ovaries had to go. My weekly hot-flashes are a brutal reminder of a loss of life’s greatest cycle, but I can’t take the hormones that others can. There is no estrogen therapy because my breasts carry the BCRA-2 gene mutation, putting me at high risk for breast cancer. My birth mother had ovarian cancer and sometimes, I feel more like a kitchen timer than a human being. In complete honesty, I wouldn’t trade my current state, but I do question it all. I’m just weary of the struggle to remind myself that as John Mayer for once eloquently put it all: I’m bigger than my body now.
I typed the first sentence onto the Corona I could think of and I breathed deeply, “And so I began…” I did actually, almost without noticing. I run errands. I watch the children play outside. Mostly, I advocate for women who weren’t given the opportunity to have this past year. I don’t dwell on the past 365 days, because it’s nothing and everything. My life has become a contradiction of brutal and wonderful. For a moment more, I have a breath and something to say. Right now, that’s enough.