My idea for this particular blog was born around three years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. To process my fear, I would make myself an example of a person who was proof that you could come out gloriously intact on the other side of cancer. Maybe I would not be unscathed but I would be a slightly scarred version of my former self. I had the bare specifics down. My breasts would come off but I would get replacement breasts. I would get a port put in but it would come out in about a year. I would lose my hair but it would grow back as soon as chemo was through. I would go through menopause but my cycle would also return. My naive notion was that I would be able to line up the photographs that my partner took of me, starting with a woman who was at the prime of her physical being through the physical changes that chemotherapy and surgeries made, and conclude them on the other side with a woman who was pieced back together in such a way that on her body only traces of what she experienced could be found. The only way you would know this thing about her is if she told you (or you read her blog). She would be happy and healthy and fulfilled and wise. I had a very distinct version of this fairy tale that I would tell. And here I am three years later, trying to piece together a way to tell this story that looks vastly different from the one that I intended.
When I don’t write, the words pile up in my mind. Collected memories and points, like tangible things dusty with neglect. They nag and nag and I push them away (because I don’t want to think about that right now, I don’t want to process that publicly/not publicly right now, I hate them, I am bored by them, they are redundant, boring, painful, etc. etc.) Then, unprocessed, the words that tumble out in my conversations are bits and pieces of my truth, attempting to convey that I have something to say, but in an erratic, less than articulate manner. I often feel tongue tied and self conscious and frustrated. When I let these words dance around on the paper or the screen, they are then collected in a space, easing my mind into order and teaching me what I have to say. I have been chewing on certain ideas since I finished my last chemo. I have come to a lot of important realizations and uncovered a lot of raw bits of truth since I stopped sharing my writing. But I haven’t been writing.
Why? Because after my actual experience with cancer I didn’t want this to be another cancer blog. I didn’t want this to be the blog about the aftermath so I didn’t write it. I HATED the aftermath. Because there is so much weight to the word, it feels like everything that I have to say, everything that I have suffered and everything that I rejoice spins around the reality that I had cancer. I wanted to separate a post cancer reality from the reality of me dealing with cancer, but thats impossible to do. Its true that my current ideas are related to what treatment for cancer did to my body, my self esteem, the mark that cancer itself left on me as a person. Its true that a lot of what I have learned or have to say is a result of my diagnosis and the lasting effects of the treatment and surgeries. But most of what I grapple with post treatment is uncovering shame and learning to think about body image issues in a constructive way so that I can survive emotionally. And THESE are issues we can all relate to on some level. I want to write about them because I think they are relative, important and interesting. So I invite you to enter into my headspace as I sort through journal entries and ideas from the last couple of years and work them into blog pieces. These ideas interspersed with current experiences and ideas are what I now plan to make this blog space about. And you will probably have to shuffle through a lot of shit about cancer. There just isn’t a way around that.