I want to push this cancer thing as far away from me as possible, not look back. I want to shake off my insecurities and doubt. I want to be a normal girl. I want the impossible. Cancer doesn’t define me. Does it?
There is my brain and body before cancer and my brain and body after cancer. BC. AC. But I also have other things that define me as well. Drastic life changing moments that brought me here. Standing in a church vowing to love, honor, and cherish a man for the rest of my life. Growing my children. My first birth. Accepting my sexuality. Little moments that I didn’t think would matter but ended up being everything. Trusting someone enough that I willingly followed him into the woods at night. One moment my brother was here and I was a certain woman, now he’s gone and I’m someone different.
One moment I was a woman with scars I hid and a body I was ashamed of, the next moment I had cancer and my body became secondary to my life. One moment I had two breasts I covered up because they weren’t perfect. Now I have one breast I like to show off because why the hell not!!!
So I go through my life, moments at a time that eventually stretch into days and cancer is far off in the distance with Boo. Then it slams into me again like an icy wind that chills my bones. The cancer drips off my fingertips. It puddles around my feet and I have no choice but to feel the icy wind and step in the puddle. I am a different woman now than I used to be.
Chemo stole from me coherent thought processes. My brain is more like a patchwork quilt that I’m constantly sewing. Cancer stole from me the ability to walk into a store and purchase matching panties and bra. I suppose that isn’t such a bad thing, in the grand scheme. Until you consider I must figure out how to dress myself every single morning. So much of being a capable confident woman is thinking clearly, feeling comfortable in my own skin, wearing clothes that reflect my personality. I tug at my shirt constantly. I fidget with my lymphedema sleeve. It becomes entirely too easy to sink into the mindset that cancer and chemo stole so much from me and so I’m going to be bitter and angry.
Bitter and angry are valid. I feel them deep in my soul. But then something amazing happens to me.
Someone steps in my path and says “I have suffered and I’m still standing right here.” It is an affirmation of struggle and triumph.
She is glorious, beautiful, and completely devastating. Her breasts are simply there. The scars that scatter her skin look amazing. I find myself looking at other pieces. Her face, the rope technique, her collar bone. But my eyes slide down again and I stare. She didn’t cover up her scars. That amazes me. She’s still standing. And so am I.
I’ll continue to cuss and complain about getting dressed. I’ll still stitch together my chemo brain. But I don’t need to look for the next moment that changes who I am. She stepped onto my path for long enough for me to compare scars and see who I can be.
Cancer does define me. But I get to choose the definition. I’m grateful that our paths crossed and I had this changing moment with her. Thank you DJFet.
(Model: DJFet. Photographer natural-dominant)