Kintsukuroi, or kintsuki, is the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with a gold lacquer. Per wikipedia, “as a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.” and I would add, “or throw away.” Get where I am going here? The scars on my chest, the hidden scars in my heart, and all of your scars both hidden and not, are part of the history of you as a human and not to be disguised or denied without consequence. As Carl Jung wrote, “If you get rid of the pain before you have answered its questions, you get rid of the self along with it.”
As I come to the close of the treatment for these recalcitrant toddler cells (2 more weeks of radiation and done!), I find myself looking at this repaired chest and wondering how I move on and out of this place in which I have dwelled for the last 9 months – an auspicious number during which gestated my new (and improved? well, at least changed) self. What do I do with all the space cancer and its trappings have taken up in my mind and heart? I am not the person I was last March 17th. Like one asks when pregnant, who will this baby be, I ask who am I now? who is it I have/I will become?
I have these new scars and I am proud of them. They represent the dissembling of what I thought was my reality and the process of reassembling a new one (which I now more fully know is just waiting to be dissembled, nature of that beast we call life). What adventures lay before me?
There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. L. Cohen
I love that line. It has become a beacon of hope for me in these days of destruction (here I refer to he who shall not be named in my blog and his lackies). On a personal level though, I really like its juxtaposition with Kintsugi; the gold that mends the breaks coming from inside me and the light from all the incredible gifts this cancer has put in my path pouring through these scars into my heart which then helps me create that gold that mends said scars and the circle is unbroken (cue beginning sound track of the Lion King, or Gregg Allman, your pick).
R * A * D * I * A * T * I * O * N
Yeah, not really. In physics, radiation means the emission or transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles through space or through a material medium. In the treatment room radiation is isolating and weird. You walk in and meet these young radiation techs (all women, all maybe 17 years old) who are bubbly and kind, you lay down on a gurney of sorts, they push and pull you to align your tattoos with some measure on some machine while asking you about your plans for the rest of the day and then they leave b/c, as we all know, what they are about to unleash is VERY BAD FOR YOU. And it’s invisible. I don’t know about you but VERY BAD INVISIBLE THINGS weird me out.
So you go along and you feel fine, though at times you get hit with a fatigue so overwhelming that you think if you don’t lay down right now, well, you just have to lay down right now. Other than that though you walk the dog, explore Beacon Hill, see your friends, maybe do a little shopping. Then you start to tan but it’s a strange tan in that it is only over one side of your flat little chest and under your arm but okay, you’ve had tans before. Then your chest (really I mean me thru all of this, lucky you) starts to redden and you get folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles), lovely. And you still have 2 weeks to go, lots of time to blister and slough off your skin (ha! have I got your attention now? gagging are we?) and, oh yeah, the radiation sticks around for 2 weeks post treatment doing its WMD thang on its own. Which will bring me to Thanksgiving and on the same day… MY BIRTHDAY! I love my birthday and I love Thanksgiving so this year is extra special being the gift of another birthday and all kinds of things to be thankful for. But I digress…
It hasn’t happened a lot but occasionally I hit the emotional wall.
The Flat and Fabulous FB page is a private page where we women who decided against reconstruction, or those who are trying to make the decision betwixt reconstruction or not, can go for support, advice, tips on skin care, etc. Last week a vibrant and pivotal member of this group died suddenly. She had been an incredibly funny, honest, sassy voice and we were all blown away by her unexpected death at 45 of an apparent heart attack (thin as a rail, pretty in the way of faeries, seemingly healthy other than post breast cancer, mom of 3, activist, you just never fecking know people).
I was walking the dogs and John called unaware of the limb from which I was dangling. “How’re you doing?” he blithely asked and was treated to a total melt down of tears and existential angst. “I AM SO TIRED OF CANCER. I am so tired of thinking about it, talking about it, having it attached to my every thought and action. I’m tired of friends dying from it.” John, through his own tears at my tears and wanting to fix this, talked about compulsive thinking and what to do about it. But it’s not that. It’s not the rabbit hole, spiral, racing mind thing. It’s just always fucking there because everything in my life revolves around it. I go from here to there for treatment, I think about what I eat and its effect, I try to pay attention, I acknowledge how bizarre my sleep or lack thereof has become, I watch my skin redden and start to bubble, I put on ace wraps, I try to pay attention, I attend my friend Judé’s memorial service, I rub aquaphor on my scars and on the bubbly skin, I go along with my day and suddenly if I don’t take a nap RIGHT NOW I may fall down, I try to pay attention. And most of the time I am okay with it but that day before John’s call, and one week after Judé’s service, I had found out about Rebecca, the FB friend, dying and it was just too too much.
And he talked me down and made me laugh and I am very thankful for this man with whom I have shared so much of my life and who knows me so well in so many ways and with whom I can say just about anything and we can laugh about it. Divorce doesn’t get much better than that. This would be some of that light getting in I was taking about.
And here I sit…
…in my lovely little apartment in Beacon Hill (some of that aforementioned light á la Mickey and Robin) having spent last evening having a Mediterranean dinner (more light á la Mart, Rog, Elissa and Narayan) watching the Ravens beat the Patriots (light á la my own personal goddess), now gazing at the Bostonian blue sky and pondering a walk on the Esplanade while awaiting Maggie’s arrival whereupon we will continue her cooking lessons by learning how to make meatloaf and Hasselback potatoes.
Freaking blessed I am. -Yoda