Friday, March 1, 2013

The Sign of the Breast

So I started radiation yesterday. But - let me go back a few years. 

I began teaching water aerobics in Brigham City, UT, in 1984, right after Jenna was born. I taught for several years and developed quite a program in this small town. One of the benefits of teaching was being able to associate with women of all different ages, different sizes, and different levels of health, and different skin art. The one thing they had in common was that they were comfortable in their skin. Comfortable enough to wear a bathing suit and dress in the women's changing/showering room which was communal. After exercising, we showered, rinsed off our swim suits, changed for the day, and left, that's it, no comparing, no "my body's better than yours," etc. One of the beauties of that time was that there were a few women, maybe 5-7 (out of 20), who were breast cancer survivors. Some had partial mastectomies, some full, one breast, both breasts. These women had scars that told of their journey and tiny tattoo marks (the size of a pin head) for radiation treatments, as well as other scars and tattoos. I never heard a woman mention regrets at their body type or their markings.

Over the years I've had plenty of surgeries and injuries, and the scars now hold stories. My knees - summer of my senior year in high school, now the surgery is minor, at that time, it was 3-5 days in the hospital, and crutches for 6 weeks. More to the story. Pregnancy scars - some from Tyler, some from Jenna. I have a scar on my elbow from using my dad's belt sander - without asking or having proper instruction. A little over a year ago I had back surgery; really long story, not to be told here. The scar on my back is about 5 inches long; it is still a little pink - new looking. Now - 2 larger scars, one under my left armpit, the other across my chest, from my left side to halfway to my sternum, and 2 smaller scars where my port is (I didn't even know what a port was 7 months ago) - and you're hearing that story - it's ongoing.

Last January, a month post- back surgery, I decided I needed beauty surrounding my scar. One day I was "pondering" what to do. I saw a picture of a bird with an olive branch (on an church manual), and I had my answer. I have 3 small birds on my left hip as a constant and permanent reminder of life, love, grace, beauty, serenity. These birds of peace have brought me much joy and peace this past 13 months, and during cancer treatment they have served as a grounding place, an area of my body where I chose the marking. 

On Wednesday I received 5 permanent dots - 3 down the middle of my chest and 1 on each side of my body, below my breasts. They will be markers for the radiation treatment - indicators for where the radiation will be delivered, and they will be with me forever, they will mark me as a breast cancer survivor. 

Interesting how I am now, in many ways, one of the women with whom I exercised. My story is now added to the archive of body art, some mandated, some chosen. And as I see it - all beautiful, all worthy of story time.

My mother, who knows this story said, "Visible scars are explainable, emotional scars, less so.  We learn from them all. You have not complained about any of the visible scars - that is a great example of acceptance, gratefulness to have a body w/without scars, hair, beauty marks, deformities, etc. The Brigham City women set a great precedence for you without you knowing about it at the time. Your acceptance and feelings are comfortable and good examples."

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