We really do take our bodies for granted. We live in a time when self improvement is the new religion, but even with that focus on ourselves we don't really have that much respect for our bodies. So much focus has been put on keeping ourselves young. Youth is supposed to be the thing that is always on our side. But in my case youth is not on my side. Youth is kind of making the problem worse.
I grew up in an age when a sexual revolution had happened, but then the other shoe had dropped so now we were all supposed to be afraid of sex. We now had the right to have as much sex as we wanted before, after, during marriage. Or with no marriage at all. But be-ware 'cause it might kill you. I heeded that message, too. I didn't really date in high-school at all and I lost my virginity when I was 18. And I married that guy. So many of my friends don't "date." They get into long term relationships. And sex is a BIG DEAL. I started late then married young. Divorced young. I think it seemed like if you were in a committed relationship - no matter how much of a mistake that relationship might be, then you were safe. I grew up in fear of this thing that might kill me if I slept with the wrong person and I never considered anything else.
I never drank in high-school. Never did drugs. In college either. I was strait-edge, I didn't do that. My body was a temple, I respected it. My brain was even more sacred to me. The day I was diagnosed with breast cancer Kurt had our friends bring over some weed and he told me flat out I was going to smoke some. It didn't really do anything. At all. (shrug.) Maybe next time.
I wouldn't say I really take care of my body. I don't abuse it. I eat reasonably well. Though I do enjoy an A&W teen burger once in a while. I don't actively go out and exercise. I don't go to the gym. Don't take yoga classes. But I walk everywhere, and I weigh ten pounds less than I did before I was pregnant. When I eventually did take up drinking I didn't exactly make up for lost time. I went through maybe a six to eight month period where I had a few parties and really did it up right. But I'm no drunk by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoy a pint down at the pub ... or more, in my living room, these days.
I've always considered myself to be pretty "in touch" with my body. I had a friend in university who was really impressed, once, when I knew, a day or two in advance, that my period was going to be early. I'm not a vain person. I like to look how I look and I enjoy a compliment from my man, but my sense of aesthetics will not be compromised by the loss of my hair. (In fact I've already shaved it, and it looks f#@kin' good) I do worry that I will lose too much weight, and that, like Bilbo when he gave up the ring, age will catch up with me. Not too long ago I was looking in a mirror in natural light and commented on how I don't have any crow's feet, yet. I wondered, today, if that will change. If my youthful appearance will be replaced by someone who is haggard and old.
I'm definitely conflicted about the boobs. I know that the surgery will be done in the least invasive way possible, but the tumor is close to the surface, so some skin will have to be taken.
And the decision still has to be made about whether or not I will have the whole works removed in the future. Kurt wants me to do it. And it's understandable. His mother went through a long illness. And according to the letters she wrote to her sister, she kept thinking she was done. Kept thinking they had gotten all the cancer. And Kurt doesn't want that for me. If all the breast tissue is gone, the chances of the cancer coming back are much much less. But that is a big thing to decide. We're talking about everything. Nipples and all. I can get fake ones. But it's a long process. And painful. More painful than the original surgery. It's a really hard thing to decide. My breasts have sustained my daughter for 14 months. They are my link to motherhood, to womanhood. I don't have to decide that right now. But I do have to decide.
And then there's sex. Maintaining a physical relationship is already made difficult by the living arrangement of Kurt working in Vancouver 5 days a week and me living here. We haven't had sex at all since the diagnosis. He comes home tomorrow but I go for surgery the next day. Before I am even fully recovered from surgery I expect to start chemotherapy, which I have been promised will rob me of my sex drive. I will be getting chemotherapy until the end of September. How does a relationship survive? How do you begin to get back to a physical place when this body is no longer the body it was? Pregnancy changes your body. And it is an adjustment. It alters the nature of the physical relationship, a little. But you sign on for that. It's expected. ... This wasn't part of the deal. How do you go back? How do you ... My body is going to be changed. And it won't be a gradual change, like pregnancy. It won't happen slowly so that he doesn't even notice. It won't be organic. It will just suddenly be different. Damaged. The tissue around where my C-section scar is, has very little feeling. It is coming back slowly, but it may never come back fully. What if that happens to my breast? What if it is always a bit sore? What if it is so ugly that I can't look at it? Do I become one of those people who has sex with the lights off? With a shirt on? I worry that Kurt will be afraid to touch me.
I know I am going to be faced with some new realities about my body over the next few months. Just how tough is it? How do I really feel about how I look? I guess we'll see...