i full on had to stop writing the other blog post that’s open in another tab. not because it’s not relevant or important. just because this is where my head is right now. three weeks ago, i wrote a pretty open & honest letter to my body. on the eve of my bilateral mastectomy. writing it quite literally split me wide open. wow, too soon alix. but i openly sobbed writing it. a bittersweet goodbye to the house that’s kept me safe and warm this whole time. if you haven’t read it, well obviously i am gonna tell you to go do that right now and then come back. duh. but lately, the body dysmorphia is thick. comes in waves. sometimes it’s an all day affair where i wish i had packed a lunch. and other days, it’s almost nonexistent. but that was not today. and as someone who wasn’t a huge fan of the body i just said goodbye to, i am shocked to find that i am not a big fan of this version either. it’s crooked and lopsided and scarred and broken. red in some places, flesh toned in other places. knotty scars are forming and i am absolutely terrified to touch my own skin. i lost all nerves and sensation from my collar bone to my hip bones. sometimes, the sensation comes back for a moment or two. apparently your nerve endings are basically on an adventure, blindfolded, trying to find each other and link up. sometimes they do. but they don’t stay there for too long. so it feels like most of my body is waking up from being asleep. like that tingling feeling when you fall asleep on your arm. my whole body feels like that. and while i appreciate the diligence that went into walking out of the operating room without cancer, the lymph node removal situation has taken the feeling in my right arm. and sometimes i feel like i can’t scream it loud enough. I. AM. GRATEFUL. TO. STILL. BE. HERE. wow, caps lock for the first time. no, but seriously. i am. grateful for this opportunity. for this rebirth. i must’ve done something right. but in the gratitude, grief still lingers. and from an outside the fishbowl perspective, i am so lucky and so fortunate. to have my health and to be here. to no complications and pathology reports in my favor. but it is so much more than that. saying it loud for those in the back. i am so grateful to be here and i know you all are beyond grateful too. but this body. it ain’t mine. didn’t order it. not on my receipt. it’s a beautiful medical creation. and it was the better of the options. but there is still grief here. it is still hard to look and see what was lost in order to gain a lifetime. there is an eternal awareness. my body is always reminding me that it’s not mine. i am always awake and aware that this is not mine. and it’s okay for me to be in this weird place of grief. similar to grief in other ways. where the loss is something that crashes over you on a wednesday night. where anytime anyone asks how it’s going, you are stifling back tears. because the world wants me to be happy. and deep down, i am. but the grief and mourning and sadness. they are layered thick. and before you call my psychiatrist to come get me, i am gonna let you in on a little secret. one that i just learned. cancer is something that you carry forever. even after it is dead and gone. [cue dead & gone by t.i. featuring justin timberlake] it marks you and changes you. it hardens you and makes you question things. it stays in your heart and your brain. it forces you into places that hurt or feel scary. and i am not suggesting living a life in fear. nah. but just because the surgery and the treatment and the quote unquote hard parts are over, doesn’t mean that this part doesn’t get to be hard. or that i have to put my gratitude for life above my grief. no, no, no. if i want to cry about this body, that’s cool. if i wanna be mad about this body, also cool. because it currently is a daily reminder of a battle i just finished fighting. it’s a reminder of a disease that is unfair and ruthless. it’s a reminder. and eventually the grief will pass. and most women come to terms with the new shell that houses them in a year or two. but each day, when i strip to take a shower or change into a cute outfit- it’s there. the body. and there are days when i just stare at it. the scars, the new tissue, the weirdness of it all. and i will say terrible things. and i will sob. and some days, i will quickly walk away from the mirror. too ashamed to see it. and on a rare occasion, i will applaud myself. for sacrificing my body. for being brave enough to do it. especially when i didn’t want to do it. and those rare occasions, eventually they will become regular occasions. and eventually i won’t flinch at my reflection. because the grief will fall back and the gratitude will step forward.
three weeks ago i had a dedicated day of mourning. to signify the end of an era. with the body that housed me, held me, built me. and today, i am in a new one. the walls are new and it feels a little empty. it’s beautiful because it’s made for survivorship. and it will carry me through the next leg of life. and it’s okay to be in both places. still missing the old version. still sad that your old body was ravaged by disease and had to leave. still angry that it was taken from you. still a little fearful of the future. and in major protective, all walls up mode. because cancer hurt. it hurt my soul and it hurt my ego and my pride and my independence. it uprooted me and traumatized me. and it’s okay to be there. while also being grateful for this second chance. while also processing the road that led you here. while recognizing that the path to self discovery is not paved in gold; it’s just a long ass path. while wanting to celebrate and jump for joy. it’s okay to be both. to be in this body but want the old one. to be thick in grief but also in grace. to be happy and sad. angry and joyous.
this body. whew. it’s a work of art, but at the same time it ain’t. and i said to my therapist today, ‘yeah, i don’t have any feeling from clavicle to waist and it probably won’t return and it’s fine’. to which she promptly responded, ‘no it’s not fine. and you don’t have to be fine with it.’
so for now, this body is just here. it’s a new house for me. the move in date was three weeks ago but i am still standing at the front door, holding the keys. looking back at what was while grateful for what is. and it’s okay to be in both places. it’s okay to want what you had. it’s okay to grieve. it’s okay to be in mourning while also shoveling happiness into your soul too. both places are okay. both places are safe. both places are accepted.
so, me and my new body. we aren’t friends yet. and it could be months or years before we bond. but i will make damn sure that she carries me the same way the old one did. with my head held high, my heart of gold on my sleeve & cancer free pep in my step.
2 thoughts on “body.”
I am awe struck by you!!! Your insightful and soul bearing writing just left me breathless. As a counselor I can tell you that there is no time limit on grief. It comes and goes in waves. Sometimes it’s those little waves that tickle your feet on the beach and sometimes it’s a tidal wave that knocks you off of your feet and makes you feel like you are drowning. And everyone’s journey is unique and their own. Don’t let yourself or anyone else make you feel that you should be over it or are doing it wrong.
You have to publish your blog!! There are so many women struggling as you are who could find so much comfort and support from your words, and your ability to speak your truth. It would give words and validity to what they are experiencing but might be unable to put into words. But as I write this, I also know that this is your story and your journey, and whether you tell your story is up to you, and there is no right or wrong answer. Lean on those who love and support you and know that they are there for you whether you are grieving or not, hating your body or not, crying or laughing. ❤❤❤❤❤
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Alix, I am awe struck by your honest and pure expression of feelings others have felt, but never had the strength to write it down for others to read. You have made it possible for the rest of us to understand and empathize – to the best of our abilities – but NEVER to the same extent that you have endured. Thank You for this gift of understanding and allowing us to learn how to care and the privilege to share in your journey – even in a small way. YOU ARE MORE THAN OK! In my mind, you are a rising star. As you continue to heal – know that you are treasured and cherished in so many ways for so many reasons by so many people! Fondly, Mary
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