As of February 2009, I have been out of all cancer treatments for 5 years. I know I have been celebrating this 5 year anniversary for months, but here's the breakdown:
September 3, 2008-5 year anniversary of my diagnosis
October 1, 2008- 5 year anniversary of my mastectomy
February 1, 2009- 5 year anniversary of end of chemo
So all of my treatment is done and it's been 5 years, uhh, what does that mean?
It's the 5 year survival rate. I had Stage 1 breast cancer, so I have good odds of not kicking the bucket for a while due to cancer. I am a very, very, very blessed and lucky woman. I don't talk much about my cancer because it's become this very present reality to me, almost like a friend, a mundane reality...not that I don't take it seriously, or even get scurred sometimes, but it doesn't rule my life, nor do I live in fear of my death.
So to honor my survival and thriving, a poem:
A few pounds of flesh
taken for granted.
Mouths that caressed,
hands that teased,
fingers splayed on brownness.
I matured young, blood rushing from the space
between my legs at the tender age of eleven,
but the two hills of fat never quite grew.
I was proud of my body: slim, feline, strong.
It withstood the poisons of youthful chemistry,
the risks of promiscuity,
the trauma of neglect,
Arms like bands of steel,
legs small and muscled
a hidden, round jewel of a butt.
It was a day like any other; September, in fact.
A smile upon my face, first day of graduate school.
my nerves, popping, only a year married,
dreams of houses and children and vacations and lectures to give.
plans, designs, hopes, fears, all on 14th street and 8th avenue.
in a moment, he uttered "cancer."
like a whisper, like a curse.
the shock, slapping me, hot tears cascading
and he talks, not without compassion, but he talks and talks and talks
am i going to die? will it eat my flesh and leave me skeletal?
who will tell my wife? my parents? my brothers?
songs lyrics bounce around a lucid mind
mamma i wanna sing
but i must concentrate on how to save my life...
what can happen in 5 years?
a marriage dissolved
a degree earned only to pursue another
fall in love with her, and she leaves
two presidents. one, black, like me.
a dog or two.
saints of Tibet, vows taken, these are not to a woman. or any other person.
wars began, more lives lost.
many more friends and acquaintances touched by cellular overpopulation.
and a scar.
a scar that marks me, separates me.
makes me wonder if anyone could love me
and not be scared of my death, or her own.
a scar that i hid behind prosthetics and strategically placed clothing
until i said fuck it.
i'm asymmetrical in the most tragically comical way.
but on my wall hangs framed, pictures my dear friend took of me.
a day before the cutting, before i became an amputee.
in the light, near the world's most famous bridge
i look so young, beautiful, defiant, terrified, peaceful.
a tank top, eggplant.
locks that would fall out from chemo.
a studded belt
silver bracelet glittering
and two breasts, one soon to part.