Binding

The wrap on my arm confines me, making it difficult to write, difficult to post, difficult, somehow, to think.

It’s funny, the things we take for granted. I thought that once my treatment was over, it would be over. But it’s still a growing process. A learning process. A grieving process.

Soon, it will be time to put it all away and move on. Soon. But today is not the day. I came too close, I squeeked by with too little margin, I cheated cancer, and escaped with my life.

Tomorrow, I will give thanks and move on. I want to. Oh, how I want to.

I want to move on, and to play in the sunshine of spring, and to shop with the most normal of questions (Does this make my butt look big?) instead of the weird ones I have now (Do these black pants bulge over my swollen tummy? Do they cover my oopherectomy scars? How will I put this great shirt on over my bandaged arm? Is this crisp white blouse too sheer? (For even the laciest camisole will not disguise a boy-flat chest) And my favorite, is this cut too low under the arms?) I’m not asking to be vain, you know. I’m asking — you, the mirror, myself — because I am having trouble myself determining what is real and what is just an annoyance.

And what is real, in terms of limitations? Am I disabled? I think not, but I have trouble opening doors, lifting my toddler, and such. (We “bump” down the stairs together these days because I cannot carry him.) Am I scarred? Well, sure, but that’s the price I paid for successful surgeries. Should I cover up my wounds? Can I? Should I pretend it didn’t even happen? That I’m just, again, a woman trying to make it through the day?

I don’t know. I want to be in a place where it doesn’t matter. Where I don’t have to think about the cancer or the past, and I can just enjoy the present.

But the wrap on my arm confines me, constantly reminding me about the cancer, limiting my perspective and my world, and in some small way I am reminded of foot-binding, that barbaric practice that limited the outlooks of millions of Chinese girls, so many years ago. It’s not that I *can’t* function well with this apparatus on, or that they *couldn’t* teach each other higher math with bound feet. It’s just, well … more difficult.

And then of course I get all distracted and go on about the suffering of those poor little girls, all those years ago, and how they suffered just to make their feet — important parts of their body, that they needed to be able to use — more attractive to men of their culture. Men who almost never actually saw those feet, even. But just the idea of the bound foot was sexy. Ugh. And double ugh.

I need to get out more.

It’s just … the wrap on my arm confines me.

14 Responses to Binding

  1. Kay Lynn says:

    Should I pretend it didn’t even happen? That I’m just, again, a woman trying to make it through the day?

    I don’t think you can ever successfully pretend it didn’t happen; cancer changes your whole outlook on life, sometimes whether you realize it or not. I am constantly hoping to see my little boy reach manhood, to see him have children of his own, praying that I can be there for him throughout his youth and even his middle age. It scares me to think I may have no more time on this earth than my mother did, especially the closer I get to 30. You are so lucky to be able to spend time with your kids! Revel in it, shout it from the rooftops!

    You have a second chance! You’ve won! You beat cancer! You can do anything! And I’ll keep you in my prayers just the same.

  2. carosgram says:

    Frankly I don’t think that because you are grateful for having beaten cancer means that you can’t be upset about your arm, the scars, the shape of your body. They are actually two separate things and I believe you can be as upset as you feel. Why should you feel guilty for grieving the loss of your previous body, your image of yourself, the inability to feel comfortable in revealing clothes, the ability to carry your children and open doors easily? You have every right to indulge your anger, your sadness, your wistfulness, and yes, your embarrassment at having people stare at you and asking you personal questions. Thinking of you and wishing you the best!

    • Kay Lynn says:

      That wasn’t my point. Taking time to mourn the loss of what you once were is fine, but I don’t believe that grief over what’s been lost and joy over what’s been retained are necessarily exclusive of each other. Both are normal and natural reactions. Everyone has off days. Hopefully the good days will outnumber the bad.

  3. Spacemom says:

    Sadly, cancer and the treatment and the after affects are now part of you. Good days and bad days will happen. Although my depression is not as life threatening, I often get ANGRY that it even exists, even on the good days. I am sorry, but it is always a part of you now. I wish it wasn’t.

    Thinking good thoughts.

    And yes, you can still be an inspiration to girls in math and science with your arm bound. Just think of the Smithsonian Channel interview. The heck with your arm, you have your brain!🙂

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Amen, sister. I don’t even look in the mirror (at my body) most days, because I don’t even want to know whether my lopsided chest is obvious under my clothes. It’s still cool here, so I haven’t had to think much about my axillary node dissection or chemo port scars…but those days are coming. Most days, I’d just like to pretend it didn’t happen.

  5. throwslikeagirl74 says:

    hugs.

  6. Bon says:

    this post hit me like a quietly keening voice, dignified and wounded.

    i know the word is out of fashion these days, and i mean no offense to anyone in raising it…but to me these things you speak of are handicaps, in the literal sense of the word, like the weights hung on horses to slow them. one more thing to drag around when it’s hard enough getting through the day.

    particularly those that people avert eyes from or those that are so invisible they are assumed to have no weight at all.

    this was beautiful. and i am sorry.

  7. Lisse says:

    I’ve never had cancer, but I know for other reasons that feeling of just wanting to get back to normal and wanting to stop feeling like something other than a regular person.

    I read through a lot of your story yesterday for the first time. You might not be able to feel that it never happened, but having fought it, I think, will be a source of strength for you.

  8. NYfriend says:

    I wish I knew what to say, but I feel at a loss – it just so sucks that any of this is on your plate. 😦

    And the foot binding thing…oooh my head is swaying and my stomach hurts from nausea after reading what they actually use to do. I hadn’t realized it was that extreme. I had ignorantly thought it was like what wearing pointy shoes all the times does, just a bit more extreme. Yeesh.

    Hugs🙂

  9. whymommy says:

    Yeah. They broke the girls’ feet, and in doing so, they broke their spirits.

    Shameful. And for a thousand years….

    • NYfriend says:

      I just can’t stop thinking about those barbarians abusing those girls feet and their spirits, self-worth, etc. I’m glad the practice has been outlawed, but I know there are other cultural practices in other parts of the world that are even worse, that ARE still routinely practiced. So I still feel angry about it all (and nauseous too). Ironically, I injured my big toe today to the point that the nail is seriously broken and bleeding. I’d have to say my “energy” today was not in a good place.

  10. […] week has been hard, both physically and inside my head.  But, like many things, it’s easier sometimes to fight the battles when they’re out […]

  11. Stimey says:

    I’m sorry you’re having such a tough time. You looked adorable the other day in WonderDaddy’s shirt. You really did. And I know it’s not a vanity thing, but you should know that you look great. You really do.

  12. lori says:

    a very superficial thought (you look great btw)

    http://www.tlcdirect.org/subcategory/AmericanCancerSocietyMastectomyFoamandLatexBreastForms.html?

    links to some very light and comfortable latex forms for about $30 . So light that you can put selfstick velcro on them, or these sticky strips
    http://www.bunheads.com/stage/StickStrips.html

    and they will stay put. Just in case once in a while you’re really in the mood to do that – though I completely agree that should be only to please yourself, not anyone else.

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