Thursday, June 27, 2013

payback is a bitch

This cancer feels like a prison sentence and it's only been eight months. I can hardly imagine being four or more years and countless treatments in like young women I've met. Living like this feels like payback for a life spent beautiful, fit and happy. Somewhere, someone who wasn't so toothsome and hated me for it is grinning her ass off.

I think summertime and all the bare, sweaty skin just brings my awareness of how much I've been physically altered to a hideous, pulsating head. My hair is thin and I appear to have a bald spot and receding hairline. In the winter, hiding under hats was easy. Even my all-cotton, homemade kufis don't save me because a hot flash in the sweltering heat of day strikes and it needs. To. Come. Off. 

I barely have any eyebrows or eyelashes. All the makeup in Sephora applied expertly really, in the end, is pointless. With no lashes, everything just runs into my poor blinding eyes.

Tank tops don't hide the bulging port (and grisly scar) and the accompanying ripple from the tube that goes from it to my collarbone (and another scar) to my clavicle and into my heart.

I've gained almost 10 pounds. I never had to think about calories or portions and now, I'm painfully aware that I can have 1300 calories or less. Can't exercise and being tired just makes me want to eat more. Even if I have an active day and log in lots of activity, I will end up paying for it by being exhausted in a day or two. Not the kind of tired that you can snap out of with a good cup of coffee or two. The kind of tired you can't shake with an XL Dunkin' Donuts coffee, three Coke Zeros, and a scoop of Cardio Cuts. Having all that caffeine is actually worse; you're wired and exhausted so you can't sleep, and then you end up sobbing over a construction paper jellyfish your preschooler made because you're sad and delirious.

Let's not forget the toenails. No evidence of fungus, but the big toes are definitely at half mast. Kinda hard to hide even with peep toe shoes.

I used to be quick-witted and analytical, fast-talking with the ability to pull out just the right four-syllable stunner to explain my thoughts. Now, I struggle with embarrassing aphasia. i speak slowly and deliberately, pausing and fluttering hands to grasp the main word that seems just beyond my reach, so people continually finish my sentences for me. I have a tough time following plot lines and dialogue in movies and on television, and though I read voraciously, constantly exercising my brain, my comprehension is taxed so I reread phrases and paragraphs until I understand.

Mostly, it's the feeling of being too hard to look at that is so saddening. Sales clerks stare at the creepy bulge in my chest while they speak to my husband, and tables of senior citizens dining together don't quite know how to be subtle anymore about stealing a look at the poor bald lady with little boys eating in the booth behind them. It's hard for the cashier at the drug store to make eye contact. Little kids stare in horror until I break the ice and say hi and then they avert their eyes and hide behind their parent. For my whole life, I've gotten used to being stared at: a vivacious, athletic girl with dancing green eyes and bright, giant smile. Now, I try to see how long I can avoid my own reflection.


Mom said...

First of are beautiful, Lady Jane, even with the scars, port lumps, and lack of hair. And..Look around you. You are loved.

Second, Its important to look hell in the face and acknowledge the horror and cry. You are my child, I do this, too. If I could, I would take all of your cancer and die tomorrow; no problem. I've had most of my life already. A winter rose complete with lumps, bumps and tears, destined to wither and blow away before the next frost for sure.

This is a good place to "put it into words". Just as long as you can move off, continue living, and look for whatever joy there is for you in the moment.

Love you with all my heart and soul, Your Mother

Jamie (J) D said...

The things that I know and appreciate most about you have nothing to do with your appearance. You can avoid mirrors if you like, but allow me to remind you what the people who know you "see": candor, intelligence, laughter, wit, kindness and capability.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us. I will never stop learning things from you, it seems.