The Special Message
And I say to her, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t there. I have breast cancer and can’t get in.” And the woman on the other side of the line tells me how hard it was to find parking near my studio. She is frustrated and angry. I understand. I am, too, sometimes. “I’m sorry, I have breast cancer and am not there,” I repeat, thinking she didn’t hear me the first time. She’s huffs and signs and says she’ll take care of it. Meaning the auction donation I’ve made, the event is this weekend, she will try to arrange for another school mom to pick up the photography package from the front office. I want to reach through the phone and grab her by the shoulders. “Did you hear me lady? I’m you! We have breast cancer. You could be me tomorrow! You are one moment away from being in my shoes and then YOU are the woman who’s not in. One day away from the news, ‘you have cancer,’ and it’s your life that has changed completely. No, she hasn’t heard. Not one word.
I understand. She can’t fathom what I’m saying. It’s as if I’m speaking a foreign language and she has no recognition. I remember that feeling learning Danish, watching lips move, but not yet comprehending. “Bla, bla, bla” and the dots in my head not connecting until finally, magically, one day they did and I understood. A new world opened up. She doesn’t know that she was asked to come to my studio, instead of me delivering the expensive gift certificate to her school, because I’ve just had the space of my amputated breasts surgically refilled with implants. I’ve just been through my 4th surgery in 9 months and I’m still donating to her kid’s school fundraiser. I’m speaking Danish to her. “Bla, bla, bla,” is what she hears. Her life is about appointments and children and racing to the next destination. Maybe she’s balancing a career, a husband and stepchildren. I am a box on her agenda left unchecked for the day and she is mad. I know, I raced around like her, too. I didn’t get the special message either. The one that said, “Listen more. Read the details, it’s an easier path.” The one that said, “Pay attention to your choices – life is not later, but right now, this moment. Each new moment is another right now and then another right now. Think about to whom and what you give your attention and time. It’s the only time you have. It’s Right Now!” The one that said, “You’re missing your life being pissed off about the parking, lady.” I know, I was too.
From beautiful to bald in 4 weeks. “It could be you,” I think. How your perspective will shift when your eyelashes fall out and you are too sick to worry about being bald. Finding a parking place will no longer anger you. You will be glad you can drive, if you can, and you probably can’t. Your children’s school will still be as important; however, whether you’re a good committee mom doing your part for the school auction will not. You won’t make the auction this year. You’ll be asleep, if you’re lucky. Or worse, you’ll be sitting on the coach, wide awake from the steroids, in a state of neither this nor that, here nor there. Can’t sit still, can’t accomplish anything, your mind in a fog from chemo, your bones aching from bone marrow shots, your stomach churning. You won’t want to go this year, no matter how much you smile. No matter what you think you could or should be able to do when it’s you that has breast cancer. Some days you won’t be able to rally and it’s going to be okay. You just won’t have it in you when you’re 6 weeks into chemo. Too bald to look lovely, too hot to wear a wig, too tired to give a damn. But then you’ll suddenly understand and all the “bla, bla, bla” will come together and the foreign tongue will make sense. You’ll get it. Wish them luck, the show will go on without you as you realize the world may, too. It will be okay. The many small things that upset you before will become much less important. What will be important? Your children, your family, your friends. The people and things you love the most. A single note reverberating from an upright piano, the afternoon light falling across a friend’s face, a child laughing with abandon…
I’m sorry, there was no parking for you today, lady. Be pissed off. You didn’t get the special message. Maybe tomorrow will be your day. I hope not.