I’ve been around the block so many times I am starting to get dizzy. Three times a day, sometimes more, I take a right out of my driveway (I never think to take a left—such a creature of habit), go past the place where all the dead leaves gather and the dogs stop to pee, past the deer park entrance, past the home where my retired PCP lives, past the entrance to Houghton Garden, where my dog used to jump in the smelly pond, and then home again. At this point, I know every frost heave which has made its mark on the road, I can name each place where a fence needs mending, and I can tell you exactly where Boston College has placed their parking restrictions. It is about a 5 minute lap, and until I get permission to graduate to Soul Cycle, this is it—my pathetic excuse for exercise.
I mostly go alone, headphones snugly in, post surgery playlist blaring. The landscapers give me odd looks as I pass them loudly singing along to Helen Reddy’s, “I am woman, I am invincible….” But sometimes my neighbor or another friend (or, if I’m very lucky, one of my kids) joins me.
Sometimes the conversations are difficult:
“So what is like not having your mother to go through this with you?” Two of the most insightful people I know have asked me this—the rabbi, and my best friend. It was not an easy question to answer either time.
My eyes involuntarily welled up at the question. I lost my mother a year ago today, as I write this. I am not sure what my answer is, but my eyes don’t lie. It’s a mix. It’s hard. It’s a good thing she’s dead; this might kill her. She’d be strong, always a rock. She’d be impressed how good my hair has looked throughout this. I think she’d be proud of how I am handling it. She’d probably tell me to suck it up, and then cry herself to sleep.
Sometimes the conversations are helpful. I get ideas for blogs, for BA50 Faves (check out our home page—very cool new “transitional shoes”), for things to make for dinner, for books to read, TV series to watch, for FFF to take with my family when this whole ordeal is over.
Sometimes the conversations are thoughtful. I admit to myself and others that it was rather easy for me to make peace with losing a breast, that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated, that I am healing faster than I ever thought I would. And then I admit that I know that I may change my mind about all of these things in the next 5 minutes, that I might be miserable, feel bad about my body, be frustrated with my rate of healing.
Sometimes the conversation makes me laugh, as it did the other day when my friend and I were doing a couple of laps.
As we reached place where the dogs pee, I told her that despite my pigging out on all the cookies, brownies, something chocolate and crunchy that I had never seen before (I cannot tell you the name, because it is like cocaine) and peanut butter fro yo that people have brought over, I still lost weight after the surgery.
“It’s an amazing diet, the Post Mastectomy diet,” I told her. “No one should ever try it. But it works. ” (Later, I was told by another friend that the weight loss is probably due to the fact that I am losing muscle mass. Can I just say to my friend who reads my posts every week, “Did you really need to rain on my parade? I have breast cancer!”)
By the time my friend and I reached the deer park, I was telling her how I was feeling about the uncertainty of needing chemo. I told her that if I had chemo, it would probably be in the next month or so, and I would definitely lose my hair.
“But you just had your hair Keratined!!!” she exclaimed.
“I know, what a waste! There’s another $180 down the drain!” (NB I had a Groupon.) “It was bad enough that when I did it in June (when I was about to spend all summer on the boat), they let me know as I was leaving the salon that I shouldn’t get near salt water. Why is it that god will not just let me enjoy my Keratin for a 3 solid months like normal people?”
We walked some more.
“And what about all the money I spent on getting this amazing color? The foils? The time in the chair? The blow drying?” I asked her, rounding the bend. “A lot of time and money went into this hair.”
“Ridiculous!” She confirmed. “You can’t have chemo. Your hair is way too good right now.”
Then we both looked at each other. We were thinking the same thing.
“…and do you think you lose your hair…down there?” I asked. This is the kind of friend you can talk to about the latest trends in Brazilian waxes and lasers. So, apparently, you do. I checked it out when I got home. I confirmed it with a friend who has been through chemo. Bare as a baby girl. On your legs too.
So now that the gray is beginning to show, and I am waiting for the test results to tell me whether or not or I am in or out for chemo, I face even more tough decisions: Hair color or no hair color? Can I hold off making a decision while I wait for test results and the gray is coming through? I think not. I’m calling the salon tomorrow and making an appointment for a one process, damned the expense. But I don’t think I’ll spring for the highlights just yet; I’m hedging my bets.
And I am definitely not going to bother shaving my legs any time soon.