My fingers fumble over the keys now, straining to find their way again. They’ve lost that effortless feeling of gliding over the keyboard as they did before.
Just like my body lost its strength and my mind its memory of the summer months.
The doctors didn’t tell me that.
They didn’t tell me how much I would lose, or how much it would hurt to lost it all.
They told me it would be okay.
Somehow I believed them. I thought it would be okay too, and what else could I have done with such messy, angry, prolific cells multiplying inside me? I would do it again.
Perhaps the knowledge of the potential those wicked cells within me possessed created a desire in that deep, knowing part inside myself to trust those who knew the power of the beastly cells the best, the kinetic energy that pulsed and breathed and thrived inside their good turned bad minuscule bodies, the capacity they held to ravage tissues – and even my life. Perhaps, too, knowing the horrific potential those cells carried created in me a desire to be taken care of, a desire for the doctors to make it all okay again.
Certainly I must say even this is somehow better than that.
They tell me they have taken away the cancer.
Yet it’s not okay. It’s not okay now. Nothing about cancer is okay.
Nothing about having my breasts removed is okay. The scar stretches across my chest like a rope pulled tight from armpit to armpit, threaded right through those tender spheres that once nursed my babies and loved the gentle touches of my husband. And I feel them still. I feel them pulled taught by the disfigurement like a child’s gentle jaws clenching hard. I feel them yearning for the flesh and nerves and vessels that once fulfilled them, calling out for what once was and what never will be again. They burn like a fire that spreads across three quarters of my rib cage, from the base all the way up to my clavicles and reaching far like flames that scorch my armpits and my sides. They burn like two suns whose light has gone out yet still burn on in quiet darkness, a darkness no one can see or feel. They are burning embers that refuse to be calmed or quieted.
The doctors didn’t tell me it could be like this. They didn’t tell me I might develop a neuropathy that would stagger me. They didn’t tell me that I would bolt awake from a restless sleep each morning with the painful feeling of my nerves screaming out for relief from all that was severed from them. They didn’t tell me that every day, all day long I would feel the burning pulling of the scar, that the pain of nerves reaching out for what is no longer would stall me so. They didn’t tell me that the pain would bring tears to my eyes, two and a half months later. They didn’t tell me how my bruised, wounded bosom that is no more would hurt when my children nestled into the once soft flesh to hug me, or how they would flinch and pull away from the bare bones, scraped clean of the cancer but left bereft, that hugged them back.
The doctors didn’t tell me how the tears would flow in rivers of pain down my cheeks when I lay with my husband.
And they didn’t tell me that he would lose too. They didn’t tell me that my husband’s faithful eyes would never again rest on the tender rounds he once found so lovely, that his gentle hands would never again cup their fullness in his grasp. They didn’t tell me that his strong chest would rest against a hard, bony plate that burned with nerves firing frantically out of control on the inside, yet that could feel nothing but a strange tingling numbness when he touched it.
I didn’t know how I would feel the void, how the pain would feel like more than I can bear or how the grief would consume me.
I didn’t know how alone I would feel in a crowd, or how every time someone asks me how I am, I am compelled to lie because it’s all okay, right?
It’s supposed to be all okay.
They told me it would be okay.
I’m supposed to be okay.