With every nautical mile, I get closer to home. And every day I get closer to home, the reality of my cancer moves a little bit closer to the part of my brain that demands attention. My mind has turned frothy and violent this morning, just like the seas, which have been forgiving and calm. The sun, which had been bright and hot for the last week, is enshrouded in fog. The water pounds at the sides of the boat, which rumbles and creaks. A nearby foghorn sounds, “Wake up! Danger!”
For so much of this summer, I have lived lightly on the land, both physically and mentally. No home, no cars, no makeup, no jewelry, no nail polish, no blow dryers, no commitments, no friends, no drama. Mike and I went where the wind took us. We lived and breathed the beauty of the coast of New England: Penobscot Bay, Acadia, Portland, Isles of Shoals, Rockport, Cape Cod and Nantucket. Whales, dolphins, seals were our friends, lobster pots our nemesis.
For the last month, I barely thought about the tumor in my breast. I can’t really feel it any more when I touch my breast, the Tamoxifen is apparently doing its job, shrinking and softening, shrinking and softening. I have been falsely comforted these last weeks by a quiet little voice in my mind telling me that perhaps this is all a big mistake, perhaps the tumor will keep on shrinking and perhaps the great docs at DFCI will tell me I can keep my right breast after all—never have they seen such miraculous shrinkage!
But now, I’m starting to quiet that voice. I know I have to have the operation, I know I will lose a breast. And as great as it was to be able to put off thinking about it for a month, I know it’s now time to let reality set in. It’s “countdown” period. It’s “get in fighting shape” period. It’s the “Get your mind around this” period.
But in all honesty, I’m dreading it.
I am dreading the thought of being weak.
I am dreading the thought of needing help, of being disfigured, of being in pain.
I am dreading the thought of feeling ugly.
I am dreading the thought of not living up to expectations.
I am dreading the thought of having to be a fighter.
I am dreading the thought of not being able to exercise, of not being sharp, and not being able to use the remote when I want to watch something on TV because I can’t seem to learn how.
“I have this feeling that I am going to be very, very miserable,” I tell Mike. “I hope I am able to conjure up some of these images of Maine in October.”
“I’ll be there, I’ll help you.”
“What will you tell me to remember?”
He lists some of them, and I join him.
I will try to remember the pungent smell of low tide, and fried clams and diesel fuel.
I will try to remember the oranges, pinks and blues of the sunsets and sunrises, the florescent green algae, and bright, multi-colored lobster pots.
I will try to remember the sounds of the bell buoys, fog horns, and our American flag flapping in the wind.
I will try to remember the taste of the first sip of a new coffee stout beer, the first bite of a just boiled lobster claw, the first lick of a peppermint stick ice cream cone.
I will try to remember the moistness of the fog as it calmly and deliberately settles over the boat, and the shock of the icy Maine water on my overheated body when I jump in.
But most of all, I will try to remember the feeling of the wind and the sun against my bare breasts as I sail topless across a completely empty ocean. I know for sure, that one will never be the same.