Where is the most embarrassing place that you’ve ever cried? The grocery store? Work? How about while getting a… facial? (A massage I can kind of understand, but a facial??).
I had just spent the past 2 days in bed flat on my back, with my knees under a pillow, a heating pad nearby, and a bottle of Tylenol next to me on the night table. All because I had bent down the wrong way to put a glass of water on the coffee table. I already hadn’t been feeling well (fatigue from treatment, diabetes, etc.) and now this; I felt like I wanted to cry, but nothing was coming out except anger, fatigue, and boredom.
After those 2 days of taking warm showers, stretching, and lying in bed, I finally felt better. A friend and I had plans to get facials and I was desperate to leave the house (and see her).
Usually when people ask me how I am I automatically say, “Good, how are you?” I bet most of us do this, because really, are you going to let the pharmacist at CVS know that you’re miserable and awaiting a liver-targeted therapy and you feel depressed and anxious and if it rains one more day you may lose it? Hopefully not.
My aesthetician at my favorite spa took me down the long dimly lit hallway and I already felt more relaxed. I love getting facials and I don’t let whoever gets stuck working on my face get away with too much chatter about what face products I should be using. Every few months my skin needs a little clean up and I like to do it in the most relaxing way possible.
But as she was massaging a mask into my face I began to feel a sense of being more in my body than I had been in days, perhaps weeks. I felt myself relax into the warm bed as she massaged my feet and then draped a warm towel over my legs. I imagined that all of my thoughts– so many I thought I would go crazy– were like clouds, definitely there in the sky (I AM THE SKY, thank you Geralyn Lucas) but able to drift away and leave just me, bare but alive and beautiful and not weighed down by weather. So much weather.
My eyes were covered with cotton balls soaked in some kind of rose-scented something, a beautiful fragrance that trickled down from my eyes to my nose to my lips to the rest of my body, and my face felt cool and a little tingly underneath another cream.
All of a sudden I felt, clear as day, that I was in my body, in the present moment and yet so scared of what the next few weeks would bring (that doesn’t make sense, but what does these days?), so grateful to be able to care for myself in this way, so terrified and so unbalanced and so thankful and so happy and so sad and so distraught that my feelings were so out of control.
The rose-scented cotton balls became wet with my tears, and I knew that if I wasn’t on this table getting a facial, if I was home or in my car or even at work (and could close the door), I knew that I would sob until there was nothing left inside of me to pour out.
And although I didn’t want to let myself completely go, I simply couldn’t stop some of the tears that escaped and ran down my cheeks into the skin mask that she had so gently applied. “Are you OK?” she whispered, and for a full 5 seconds (though it felt like much, much longer) I couldn’t say anything at all. When I finally could speak I somehow managed to say “It feels so good to take care of my body, to feel warm and relaxed and to feel in my body. I have cancer.”
“You’re going to be alright,” she murmured back, and I wondered how she knew that and then immediately understood that she had no idea whether or not I was going to be OK, but it was just something to say.
“Promise me that you’ll do this a lot more,” she said. “It’s very important for you to feel like you’re taking care of yourself and feel relaxed amidst all of this stress.”
She was right. I at once felt so shallow for feeling so good during a facial, and relieved that I have the time and resources to be able to get a massage or a facial or do something kind for my body when I need to. I hadn’t realized how out-of-my-body I had felt these last few weeks, after my last treatment 2 + weeks ago and awaiting this new targeted-liver therapy. Between the weather and not feeling well and doctor’s appointments I haven’t been exercising much, sick from low or too high blood sugar, in pain from the shot in my left eye, not sleeping well, and just generally feeling run-down.
I had mentioned to my brother how vain it felt– and dumb considering I have much bigger fish to fry– how insecure I had been feeling, looking tired and puffy and not feeling like myself. Thankfully he totally validated my concerns and reminded me that I’m human. Despite having much bigger problems, nobody wants to look in the mirror and not feel good/like themselves. Thank you bro!
I also hadn’t realized how alone I had been feeling. The truth is, your life and my life are so different. And alike, in a lot of ways, but also so unalike. And that’s the truth, so please don’t try and start writing out a list about how we’re really the same and cancer is just a little thing that makes our lives feel uncommon. My life feels like being stuck at a fork in the road while others lives seem to be going right or left, with choices and paths that sometimes feel much longer than mine. That’s just the truth.
And so, I let myself cry, and in the end I feel so much lighter. The fear still exists; my self-help gurus help me with their books and meditations but honestly, the fear is still there. And I know that it can be, that it will be, that it should be.
I am different. I am not you, I do not have your life, I do not have your choices, and you do not have mine. My road could be shorter than yours, we do not know. But by acknowledging this unfamiliar terrain for all of us, in the end, you are acknowledging me.