Monday, January 14, 2013

the back of my head and cancer

I've never owned a hand mirror. I had no interest in the back of my hair, always having a style that didn't require a lot of fussing. I figured, too, if somebody didn't like the way the back of my hair was arranged, the could avert their eyes.

Now, I need a hand mirror. As my hair has made it's exit, I am left with some patchy and itchy stuff on the back of my head. Where I can't see it. As I've gotten more comfortable with baring my bald head in public and as it's become more necessary, as when my body temperature goes through the roof, I want to know what's back there.

The strange things we worry about.

I'm thinking this morning about what marks the passage of time in my life. Tiffany will be 28 this March and Peter will be 26 in April. Reg will be 35 in a couple weeks. How can we be old enough to have children approaching their 30's and 40's? Ella turned 7 on her recent birthday and she was asking, already, about when she could learn to drive. Life goes by at warp speed, my friends.

I've read that cancer can be like that...a marker in your life. Before I was diagnosed and after I was diagnosed. Like the lives of people who have lived and died with it. My dad's death from caner, and my grandma's death from cancer, both stand out as memorable, and painful, times in my life but also as times when relationships and events were crystallized in some way. I can recall conversations I had with my grandma about her favorite tea cups and her other possessions with amazing clarity. Something about dying, or the awareness of it, brings things into focus in a way nothing else can.

The other day I thought that my cancer diagnosis was like the tornado. At first, my mind could only take in small parts of it. I looked into the back yard and noticed the bird feeder tipped over by the wind. Then I noticed the tree limbs waist deep all over the yard. It took days to notice that one had smashed my car right in front of the house. Longer still to see the devastation suffered by the neighbors across the street.

My view of cancer has broadened in much the same way. At first it was a wound right in the pit of my stomach. I didn't know if I should try to spit it out or swallow it deeper into my body. Cover it up. Try to ignore it. I didn't want to hear the word cancer, I didn't want to hear about other people who had it and survived, or not. I didn't want to know anything about all those words like markers and receptors. I've grown accustomed to it now, it just lies there, but it does let me notice other people with cancer, it lets me understand conversations about my treatment and my prognosis, it lets me go on with my life with cancer as a sidelight, not the main show.

Maybe I should think of the back of my head like that. It ain't the main show, friends. It's one thing, maybe a patchy scaly thing, but it's not me. It's just my head. Just like it's only my cancer.

This is my Valentine tree which will serve as my can of whoop ass for the week!

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