“I swear I can still taste that hope.” ~ Geralyn Lucas, Why I Wore lipstick to My Mastectomy.
I take my thumb and index finger and touch both corners of my lips once more, making sure that the red that I have never worn before is not smeared like a four-year old who colors outside the lines. How embarrassing would that be? It is just called “The Red” by Sephora and I have gotten one for G and one for myself.
Geralyn Lucas enters the room carefully (in high heels of course) and yet with a presence, and just like that I can only arrogantly tell you before it happens that she will change my life. She takes off her huge black sunglasses that make her look like a celebrity (and I am sure that people are staring at her in this gorgeous dining room in Manhattan where celebrities sit behind curtains), and I am wrapped up in a huge hug and we are already wiping away tears.
Two hours later we cannot stop talking, and in between coffee and eggs (and more coffee!) the waiters have gently approached our table just a few times to make sure that we have everything we need. “We’re celebrating life,” Geralyn tells one, and I think “This is my kind of girl.”
I want every second to be a celebration.
I am also scared to talk about all of this.
Another waiter approaches carefully and lets us know that if we want the buffet we may want to go now because it does close at 11am. It is 10:50am and we have been talking for 35 minutes straight. Another five minutes go by before we finally make it up to the buffet but then we start talking again and the waiter quietly smiles and tells it like it is: “It is not pretty when they break this buffet down,” he says, and we laugh and quickly grab our yogurt parfaits and head back to our glitzy and chic table (that Geralyn called ahead to reserve, how amazing is that?). We sit with our backs against a banquette and underneath the most beautiful, huge bouquet of spectacular flowers that I just know my Mom would adore. I don’t really know what our view is because I am too busy trying to make sure that my red lipstick does not end up all over my coffee cup and more importantly Am I making sense? Am I talking too much? Am I crying… Again? Does she know how cool she is?
She tells it like it is. No holds-barred. Is so open to answering my questions, immediately wants to connect me with Matthew Zachary (I’m too young for this/Stupid Cancer) and invites me to his cancer summit in the spring in Vegas. The question doesn’t even fully register between her words and my brain before I know that we will be there. Together. Why not? Cancer is stupid.
I ask her about her family, her diagnosis, her doctors, her book, and she answers all openly and honestly. I ask her about sugar, because that is my question for those living with or in remission from cancer. (I never consciously decided to obsess over that when I was diagnosed with cancer, it just kind of happened). She agrees that being healthy is wonderful but also says that caffeine, alcohol, and sugar are a super part of life! I feel my shoulders relax; she is not one of these crazy “one muffin will kill you” kind of people. That is exactly the kind of person right now that I don’t think I should be around. I am already putting too much pressure on myself after the doctors have found more and more tumors and wondering if it was the Coca-Cola lights that I treated myself to this summer while in Morocco that have caused this.
She shakes her head and becomes serious: “Please, please don’t do this to yourself Samantha,” she says. She looks into my eyes and all of a sudden our joking is put to the side and real life sinks in. This shit is about to get real. “You are not to blame for your cancer, and having a smoothie with bananas or a brownie or a cup of coffee with milk is not going to make or break your cancer.” Make or break. I want to make. I want to live. Is what she’s saying true? How do I distinguish between the truth and fiction these days anyway? I love her. I love Kris. Who is right?
But all I know, suddenly and certainly, is that I want to be happy. I want to notice the power of my soul and honor it. I want to live. I want to be healthy, of course. I want to strengthen my immune system and feel strong and well. I honestly do love my green juice and energy bites with flax seeds but I also love a latte and I don’t mean to brag but my brownies are kind of amazing, and I beg myself to just be able to release the guilt, the thoughts that hug me tight and won’t let go– that in fact, are strangling me. I no longer want to suffocate.
I know that I will not get it perfectly today, or ever. But I want to try. Try to not let cancer grip me so hard that I miss out on my life.
“I want you to eat a piece of candy today,” she says, and I don’t even think that she’s kidding (that night I have gelato with friends at dinner). “Cotton candy!” she says, and I laugh thinking about being almost 40 and eating cotton candy and that reminds me of being in an amusement park and roller-coasters. This leads me to think about how I got here (because life with cancer = a roller-coaster), and how I will make decisions and how I can live with myself if I eat cotton candy and I have cancer. For any person who has ever had any issues around food, imagine that multiplied by a million and then add a few cups of guilt and shame and a fear of death and then I think maybe that’s why we can all relate to each other despite our circumstances: Because most of us struggle with finding happiness, purpose, and balance; not just those of with cancer (it’s maybe just a bit more “in your face” for us). So much of this is about self-worth, about choices. It’s about not letting ourselves just be on auto-pilot, thinking about what we put into our bodies but also thinking if our thoughts are punishing or loving or just how much we’re enjoying our lives. Do we bully ourselves? Do we treasure others above ourselves? What is missing? What isn’t? No excuses, no bull shit: Are you happy?
We each get out our red lipsticks and reapply in the mirror of the restaurant, asking the waiter to take our picture. “We’re celebrating life,” Geralyn declares again and I pull out her book and show the staff: “Look!” They ooh and ahh and take pictures of us with roses from the table that we hold up to our noses to show the world (and ourselves): We’re stopping to smell life, cancer or no cancer.
She kisses my book, leaving a beautiful red imprint of her lips that have smiled and laughed and I bet tasted those salty bitter tears that come with having lived with cancer. “Thank you for being you,” she writes.
How do I thank her for being… Well, another guardian angel in my life?
I wonder what lies ahead, after our breakfast and months into the future. I “future-trip” with Geralyn right in front of me after we talked about our meditations and being in the present moment. I don’t want the breakfast to end.
But I’ll tell you one thing: I’ll see you in Vegas, Geralyn, and I’ll be eating cotton-candy.
P.S. Please watch this video from Geralyn’s website: http://www.geralynlucas.com/lipstick/
It’s freakin’ amazing and could SAVE YOUR LIFE! #courageiscontagious