Cancer, It's You - Not Me
"And I'm here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away. It's not fair, to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave to me. You, you, you ought to know."
- Alanis Morissette, You Ought To Know "
I live close to the beach, and most weekends from June through September you will find me with my toes in the sand, sitting at the water's edge either reading or writing. I adore the smell of the sea breeze laced with sunblock. I find peace watching the waves crash over the jetties. I even enjoy hearing the caw of the seagulls as they circle above waiting for the errant french fry or potato chip to land in the sand. When the air begins to chill and I realize that I'm spending more time on the beach wearing a sweatshirt instead of a bathing suit I know it's time to break up with summer. I take the beach bag, extra flip-flops and sand chair out of the car and store them away for the next nine months, and like any break-up, the first month is always the hardest. While adjusting my weekend schedule to fill in the gap where sun and surf once resided there is now the certainty of the impending cold, dark, short days of winter. I also become reacquainted with the cancer monkey perched on my back; similar to an ex that slides back into the picture, loosely committing to everything you'd ever wished for, the cancer monkey clings, wrapped in miles of pink ribbons whispering lies in the name of awareness and the promise of a cure.
October can be exhausting when you are a survivor...and it makes me want to just once and for all, break up with cancer. From my own experience, it was hard enough being a breast cancer survivor in a looks-based industry, those months of covering my bald head, fresh scars and learning how to apply make-up like an expert made me extremely creative in the, "wow, for someone with cancer...you look great" department. Cancer barged into my life, left its marks all over my body and my psyche and then up and left me in ruins and yes, it's a cross I bear. Cancer is the most catastrophic thing I ever had to deal with and I hate the fact that it's left me a jealous shrew. Jealous of other women and how they look. Like the woman I see each day while I'm waiting on line at Starbucks, I'll spot her head full of long thick beautiful hair, like I once had, and smooth décolletage that has not been branded with a ragged red port scar. And don't even get me started on her eyebrows, thick, glossy and threaded into a perfect arch. So unlike mine which need to be carefully and methodically drawn on every morning ensuring that I don't appear overly surprised or really pissed off or, if I'm running extremely late, both.
Do I think she's weathered her own battles? Perhaps. Most of us have had to face some kind of life altering tragedy before we hit our stride...yet, I do know that there are the rare few that just cartwheel their way through life like it's one big carnival. Would I wish what I've been through on anyone else? Absolutely not! But do I occasionally indulge the green-eyed monster? Yep. Being human is a bitch sometimes.
On the beach none of this seems to bother me, though, you would think it was the opposite but down the shore everyone is exposed. You can easily spot scars, tattoos, and bodies that carry a little extra flesh in equal measure with the unblemished, toned and unwrinkled bodies of youth. It's a reminder that we are all different and most everyone has had their own battles of some sort and the lives we've been lucky enough to live through, we now wear. It's not my scars that bother me - they are a testament to my survival - it's the things that only I notice, what I see when I look in the mirror. The worry lines etched into my forehead and the chemo mask of dark spots and freckles I never had prior and which I cover up with make-up under my eyes and cheeks. It's what I'm reminded of when I put mascara on my now skimpy eyelashes and blow dry my hair that is now much more fine and gray (underneath the dye - gray is for the grave). And my eyebrows ... oh how I miss my damn eyebrows they abandoned me without so much as a 'see ya later.' I'll never know if these things would have happened to me naturally through the aging process but I do know these were all things I didn't have before cancer.
So yes cancer, it's you - not me, but since we aren't done yet I'll continue helping others deal with your sneaky ways, and not just in October...every damn month. I'll continue to hang out with 640+ others on this page that hate you too. And together - as an army - we will eventually dump your skanky ass.