Friday, December 26, 2008

Someone else's words

I've been reading this book called "The Victoria's Secret Catalog never stops coming and other lessons I learned from breast cancer" by Jennie Nash. I"m pretty sure she hangs out in my head because I can relate so well. I love chapter 6. It so sums up how I feel about the whole losing a boob thing. I am further along now than she is in this chapter but none the less I can totally relate to "longing for what I'd lost rather than envy for what I'd never had" So, I thought I would share:

"In the weeks before my mastectomy, in the long pre-Christmas season, the Victoria's Secret catalog never stopped coming. There was some sort of glitch in the mail system - or some special pre-holiday blitz- and I got two or three catalogs in the course of a few weeks, always on the day that I learned that something more-and worse-was going to happen to my breast. There I was, agonizing over the damage about to be done to me, and there they were-all those bare bodies, all those beautiful, smooth, and perfectly balanced breasts, all those pretty pieces of underwear designed to show them off.

It's easy enough to cancel a catalog-at least in theory. But if it wasn't the Victoreia's Secret catalog coming in the mailbox, it was thier models featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Tyra Banks in a tiny red bikinin on the cover of GQ, or the now-famous Victoria's Secret Web site ad in the middle of the Super Bowl. Idealized breasts were everywhere I turned and I couldn't help but stare.

I tried to make myself go back to the stacks of breast cancer guidebooks to look at the unlit and unposed photos of women before and after their surgeries, but now that a question of mastectomy wasn't philosophical, I didn't want to see those pictures The women they featured were not beautiful. They had cellulite on their tummies and fat on their arms, thin little rib cages and fleshy middles with angry red scars snaking across the skin. They had pendulous breasts and little pointy breast, huge-nippled breasts and dimpled breasts, breasts that were dented and cut and mashed and removed. Every one of the pictures made me turn my head as if I had been slapped.

"You're going about this all wrong," Lori insisted on one of the many afternoons she sat with me at my kitchen table so I wouldn't have to sit there alone. "These are hilarious. Look at this one," she said, pointing to a woman with droopy breasts. "She probably breast-fed about ten kids. And this one?" she said, picking out a woman with large dark circles around her nipples. "Perfect for target practice." I couldn't help but laugh at Lori's loopy sense of humor and was filled with gratitude for her willingness to say anything that had to be said.

"What's so funny?" Carlyn asked, suddenly appearing at my side.
"Nothing," I said, snapping the book shut.
"What?" she pressed.
"It's none of your business," Lori said.
This of course, drew the whole crowd of kids in the house-Carlyn and Emily and Lori's kids, Kimber and Sarah. "We want to see! We want to see!" the chanted.
"No way!" we chanted back. We owned those pages now, and we needed them. One of those surgeries was going to be the one I picked.


A few nights later Rob and I were back in the backyard hot tub.
"So do you think I should get breasts like Tyra's?" I asked-because what was I going to say: Will you still love me when I lose my breast? Will you still touch me? It's dark out there in the warm water, and you can say almost anything that has to be said-but there are something things even the darkness can't hold.
"They're nice on her, but on you? I don't think so," he said.
"You mean you wouldn't like it?"
"Sure I'd like it, but that's not why we have great sex," he said.
"They're kind of a critical component," I countered.
He shook his head. "I don't think so. I mean, what's great when we have sex?"
"Your smell, the mood, what you do," I blurted.
"Not breasts," he said, like a lawyer making a closing argument.
"That's easy for you to say- and it's also not what you said before this was a reality."
"That's not fair," Rob snapped.
The breeze blew; the fog rolled in over our heads.
After a moment, he asked, "What makes it hard for you?"

I took a breath and cataloged the things about my breast that I would miss: the sensation of having my kids lean up against me when we read books at night; the feeling of pressing against another person when I give them a hug; the pride I have that these breasts did a good job at what they were intended to do; the warm and comforting feeling of Rob's hands on them: the way the nipples respond to his touch: the exact shape, wight, and balance of them; the fact that they are mine. I stopped to breathe. Rob sat unmoving across from me-frozen as if we were sitting in ice.
"I never thought about half those things," Rob said quietly.
I looked out at the night, dry-eyed and grief-stricken.
"We don't need your breast," he said. "We'll get used to it."

He moved behind me and cupped his hands around me the way I like. It could have been any night, but it was one of our last nights, and all I could think about was what it would feel like not to feel that feeling and what it would be like to thumb through the Victoria's Secret catalog, the next time it came, with longing for what I'd lost rather than envy for what I'd never had.

1 comment:

Vergori Family said...

Thank you for sharing. This made me cry. Those are all the things I'd miss to.

God bless you. I'm so glad the cancer hasn't spread and are okay.