My breast cancer story has come to a conclusion, with my reconstruction surgery last Wednesday. Now it is time to be there for others who are just starting their breast cancer journeys. I feel a bit like an imposter since I had stage 1 and didn’t require chemo or radiation, but I have already been pressed into duty by the sisterhood. Like those wonderful strangers I spoke to on the phone after my diagnosis, I will be there to support anyone who needs it.
What can you expect?
Expect grace and actively seek it out. Open up to its descent. Practice staying awake, just like you did as a child before a big, beautiful day. It is there. You feel it healing. Then you will see it everywhere.
Hmmm…I don’t think I’m going to be very good at this.
You are a warrior, though this is not a fight or a war. You love your body. It didn’t betray you, it is just doing what bodies do. You are armed with the righteous power of the present moment. You aren’t to kill, but to heal. You aren’t to fight, but to strip your armor and open wide to this experience so that you can heal.
I think back to the women I spoke with — friends of friends, who were strangers when I called them and sisters when I hung up. I am thankful for their advice, for their willingness to speak about their experience.
The practical advice I received from these women was comforting and helpful. Their lives, their health, their resilience were inspiring. It reminded me of hearing friends’ birth stories when I was pregnant. The stories were unique, cathartic, mesmerizing and real. They made me brave, but now I know those stories were nothing like mine would be.
The word “grace” in Sanskrit means “that which follows the grasping.” When I first read this, I thought that grace came after the understanding that I couldn’t control the outcome of my journey. But the ancients meant the “grasping” of the truth: that the body is expendable. It has a time limit. But the spirit doesn’t. It is light. Timeless, eternal light that is everything, everywhere. It is the light that heals. Pay attention to the light.
See? I’m really not too sure about this advice thing. Little heavy handed that. But on the lighter side, I called my tissue expanders my “coke bottle boobs.” The magnet ports reminded me of the screw off tops, the wrinkles in my breast mounds like the as hard and shiny as the creases on old glass bottles of Coke. Tom and I joked about it because laughter is the best medicine in our family, but there are others who can’t laugh because of what will come after the expanders are placed — months of chemo, worry, exhaustion, surrender.
I am blessed to be me exactly as I am even if my body is cancering. I am also blessed to be exactly as you are, since we are both the same light, reflecting back on itself in a playful, joyful act of love. No, cancer isn’t a gift, it is just part of this beautiful, terrible life. It is as mundane and regular as cold, gloomy afternoons and boring business meetings. All is well if you can be here right now in this present moment, if you can see the light and open to healing no matter what is happening in your body.
I have absolutely no advice on bras. Still looking for the right one, though my bud Grace told me I would be back in my old worn and comfy ones soon. I shopped in consignment stores for button downs that covered up my Ursula Andress surgical vest. I never paid much mind to my breasts, but I had to grieve them when the time came to say goodbye. My dear friend Corinne was there when this realization hit me hard and let me cry a good long time. We will all grieve the physical someday. Those of us with cancer just get a preview.
I am here to listen, support, encourage and share with you the fruits of grace. Namaste, sister.