Sunday, March 29, 2015

Truce & Realization

The title isn't as quite as zippy as "truth & reconciliation," but it'll do, it'll do. Which is, in large part, what this post is all about. Ever since the tour through the suburbs of Cancer Town started about five months ago, I've tried my best to look for the good parts; the lessons of kindness and grace that could be learned. In large part, I've had success with that - friends have been unfailingly kind, my medical team has made me feel that we're actually a team instead of me being Chart #17, my family has been just incredible, and even acquaintances and near-strangers have been beacons of support for me and for FryDaddy through all of this.

I can say with honesty that I wish I hadn't had to learn any of it, or at least I wish I hadn't been put into this class. But I can also say that I'm glad I have learned some things along the way. What follows are personal lessons; actual mileage may vary and heaven knows, the contents may have settled during shipping.

My stint of radiation treatment has concluded and I didn't expect/prepare for the aftermath. Even though I'd been told what to expect, I didn't listen. I truly thought that I was different and that while it might take other people a month or more to get back to about 80% energy-wise, well - that wasn't going to be me. Fewmets, I say. I've been out of treatment for a touch over a week and I get tired very easily. It took me about a week to recognize the obvious. (Speaking of which, I passed on Saturday's Color Vibe run - a decision I'm convinced was the right one due to my physical state and the weather that day [clear but quite cold], but a decision I agonized over far more than a sane person would have.) It also helped that FryDaddy said something that actually got through the butcher's block of my head. Yes, he said, it's true that I'm not vomiting or feverish, but I'm recovering from a super-mild case of radiation sickness. Somehow, that term made an impact that nothing else (including his [joking?] threat to go to the vet and get a tranq gun) had made. From that epiphany, a number of others have sprouted, all of which can be summed up with this:

I'm not what I was before the diagnosis but I have the ability to be magnificent in this new skin.

To me, this is completely eye-opening. As I've gotten older, I've struggled with - well, with getting older. I spent much of my growing-up years being the youngest in my crowd - I'm the baby of the family (both immediate and extended) and was the last of my friends to get my license and pass the other markers of teenhood. Also, I read the roles of my family as the pretty one, the athletic one, then me. (Don't bother telling me anything about that isn't accurate; I know it's screwy, but there it is.) Mind you, I never thought I needed plastic surgery to avoid scaring the livestock, but I always saw myself as plain, clumsy, and bookish. (Funny, though. I always thought I was funny.) Over the years, I made peace with that and even modified my opinions a bit, but there's my baseline; that's the skin I lived in.

And now my skin is different. The texture is different and the color is different - the treated area is both burned and peeling at the moment. My overall body is different - due in part to aging and due in part to dramatic changes (read: not the good kind) in the last few months in my diet and exercise habits. Things aren't tight and jiggle-free. My clothes are larger, which I spent a good deal of time hating, feeling that I was "letting myself go." (God, what an awful phrase, as if I need to be tightly controlled at all times instead of inhabiting my own body.) The fact of the matter is that yes, I'm different physically than I was twenty, ten, or even five years ago. I'm not willowy or waifish. I like a good, dense cheesecake and I long for the day when I can tie on my shoes and slowly jobble to the end of my road again, huffing and covered in the honest sweat that comes with exertion.

We had some tree work done over the last few weeks. Now that it's completed, the yard looks different. Messy in some places where leaves weren't raked due to the brush and also sort of raw where the trees and brush are cleared out. I'm looking forward to figuring out what to do with the space, determining what will best grow there and preparing the ground.

You know what? I feel the same way about my body. It's different than it was. In a way, brush has been cleared out and that's left changes on the landscape. And - it's true - I'll never, ever look like I did 20 years ago.

I'm so much better. 

Even on the days when I feel frumpy or tired or overwhelmed or like an impostor. I worked hard to look like this - to be upright and breathing and of at least a reasonable amount of usefulness to others and whether I do that with shiny hair and mascara-ed lashes or mismatched socks and a well-used ballcap jammed over pink hair - well, as Billie Holiday would saucily remind me, ain't nobody's business if I do.

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