How can I feel so energized and fit when my body has been jogging with cancer in my breast?
It’s like having my home invaded, ransacked and robbed when I was reading a novel. At first I tiptoed around not wanting to jiggle or jostle my boob. I didn‘t want to exacerbate the invasive creature be it a mouse or an elephant. How did it get in there? I also didn’t want to question God. There’s nothing to question. I’m on earth like everybody else, not more special than anyone else, not any less deserving of disease than anybody else.
I have lived life not always cautiously. I’ve off balanced my diet with jellybeans, frozen yoghurt, chocolate brownies. Im a sucker for soft ice cream at the basketball games. Now they say sugar is a major cause of cancer. I began taking estrogen after menopause hoping not to get dumpy and matronly and didn’t stop when the scare came. I may have done extreme things for a girl, from playing polo to hiking by bears in trees as I summited a Teton, from traveling throughout Africa alone at age 22 in 1961 and surviving malaria in Nigeria and hepatitis picked up in Tanganyika on a fishing experience, or could it have been shrimp at the Plaza? No one knew.
Those were physical extremes but there’s been spiritual extremes as well - prison ministry meant not considering criminals as criminals but as people, I never asked what crime earned them prison terms. I wanted to know the person from the inside out and go from there, as I knew Jesus had done. Everyone has some value. My duty was to dig out the good and show love. It was the same with transvestites, prostitutes, and Macumbre priests dying in the AIDS hospital in Montevideo. Whatever their lifestyle, they needed a touch and a prayer. They needed someone to see the disease in them, but also the spirit that had made them what they had become. Was it too late? Can you pray for me? They would ask as I held their hands and kissed their foreheads. I see a similar hopelessness in homeless men and women who cannot get off the treadmill of addiction, whose families turn their tired backs on them, who can’t find a job, a home, a mate, a reason to continue standing on the street smoking dope, but they do. There are all kinds of cancers. Not just tumors.
Photo: Tom Lee Memorial in Tom Lee Park
When I saw my surgeon a week ago, (and a week after the tumor was removed) I felt so good I was ready to take up bull riding. My legs were twitching to kick and dance. As I looked into his eyes and asked WHEN can I do something? He looked at me and said "You can do anything you feel like doing. After all, it’s only a boob." And we laughed. "That’s what I thought. The lower half is working fine. And I play tennis with the right hand." So sure enough, last week I returned to Pilates and to the tennis court. Wow. It’s so invigorating. I’m trying to stay in some level of "shape", as we call it, to brace for these next two weeks of operations and radiation which could pop my cork and leave me bubble-less. The radiologists put a bridle on my activities for these new two weeks. I have to be careful when I wear this balloon in my boob. I can walk. Yes, I can walk. But only if I "feel" like it. Am I not going to "feel" like it?
It’s amazing the connections you make through friends when you have cancer. My close friend Novella told an friend out of my theatrical past named Josie about my cancer, and it just so happened she has gone through the very same process only a couple of months before me. She called and gave me the low down on what to expect - primarily that all her fears of pain and misery had been short-listed and there was none. She says "fatigue" (that’s the quality word I’m learning) sets in after the radiation was over. I can’t afford "fatigue" since in March I need to be back on the exercise wheel getting in shape for April’s big trip. I refuse to go from being a sound horse to being a broken one. Can the mind beat matter? Faith can.
It’s embarrassing to ask people to pray for me again as I walk through the shadows of death again tomorrow as pre-cancerous cells are mopped up and removed. Anaesthesia is always risky. I felt the prayer surrounding me these past weeks like a new cashmere coat. It felt good. And I cushoned myself in it when I was under those cold lights in the operating room. But yesterday, I asked the homeless crowd while doing their short Sunday service before homemade biscuits, grits and eggs to please pray for me on Tuesday. I know many of them will. And so will the church and my friends, and once again a great cape of care will keep out any darkness and let God’s angels brush me with their wings.
Tomorrow I will also know what this dang balloon is going to feel like, and will have to deal with living with it, not sleeping on the left side, not being able to shower, alas; and what kind of soft bra is most reliable that I can sleep in each night. Most of mine are workout bras. I’m mentally charged for this experience because it’s going to cut my "invalid" time shorter than would six weeks of radiation. And I hope I get the A-OK from Dr. Lee, the radiologist, on Friday after he sees the layout on a MRI. My boob is going to be photographed more than Paris Hilton for a couple of weeks. My boob, the star. At least for now.
Photo: Sunset on the Mississippi River