Your power is forever expanding

Today is the three year anniversary of my hysterectomy. My uterus had been a source of pain for decades so I wasn’t too sad to see it and the cancerous tumor inside of it go.

I don’t really care for fanfare around my birthday but the hysterectomy anniversary? It’s a big deal around here so I am having a solo celebration.

I put on a dress. Real clothes, not sweatpants. Can you imagine? I bought a ridiculously expensive present justified only by telling myself, “you work so hard at being alive, babe. You deserve this.” It’s true though. Being alive is hard work.

I ordered a dramatic floral arrangement. I used to be very meh on flowers because they just die on you and then you have to throw them away and honestly it’s better to give a plant but that’s just me. However, when I returned home after the surgery, every room of my apartment was comically filled with flowers because my people are amazing and wonderful humans. It was a lot. So much so that when one friend stopped by to check on me and witnessed it for herself, she exclaimed “Did you die?!” That triggered my first, genuine belly laugh since the cancer diagnosis. I laughed so hard I cried. Laughing after abdominal surgery is no joke and incredibly painful but this was worth it. I have since revised my stance on flowers. They can be very thoughtful and on a special day like today, I wanted to see a gorgeous bouquet.

What else?

I also made a decadent breakfast that I ate on what used to be my fancy plates. After I got cancer, my fancy dish set became my regular every day dish set because life is too short. What a foolish thing to delay yourself the luxury of small pleasures.

The night before surgery, I found myself pouring over some key passages of The Cancer Journals, Audre Lorde’s rebellious and moving account of her experience with breast cancer and mastectomy. It’s a diary that defies how women are expected to deal with sickness, accepting pain and a transformed sense of self. In the first chapter, she speaks of “the transformation of silence into language and action,” and argues forcefully that communicating our experiences not only benefits the speaker on a personal level, but also gives voice to realities that will cause harm if left unattended. She writes:

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you…while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

That night, I also mediated on a passage highlighted by the friend who had sent me the book.

Please never forget that your power is forever expanding.

While it is not entirely the same, I am reminded today that my cancer grief shares strong similarities to the pandemic grief we are all experiencing: the uncertainty, the loss of connection, the loss of a sense of safety, the overwhelm of not knowing when you will feel normal again, and the deep fear of feeling that your world is smaller and will only get smaller. Of all of these, the sense that my world is small is the one that I’m feeling the most acutely these days and the one that causes me to spiral.

Please never forget that your power is forever expanding.

I am hanging on to those words today and every day until I don’t ever doubt them. I was convinced I wouldn’t wake up from that surgery three years ago and even as I write this now, I cannot really believe I’m still here. Life is just so…absurd sometimes. (All the time?) I’m a very different person than I was then and I feel certain that none of us will be the same after this particular storm has passed. There will be other storms as well. Grief is a transformative experience and I am finding some solace in knowing that I am not the only one going through it. I hope you find some solace and a small sense of feeling connected too.

A favor

Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women and the most common type of gynecological cancer in the United States. It’s also one of the few cancers in the nation that’s seeing a spike in recent years. While Black women are just as likely to get endometrial cancer as white women, they are more likely to die from the disease. Dr. Kemi Doll, a gynecologic oncologist is the only doctor I could find who was studying this specific issue. She is also the co-founder of ECANA, the Endometrial Cancer Action Network for African-Americans. Would you consider donating to or amplifying her work?

Thank you as always for indulging me.

Please do something fancy for yourself today. You deserve it. See you Wednesday.