And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
This morning, I pulled on a brand new pair of jeans. I can only find these particular jeans when I am here, on retreat on the coast of Oregon. Bizarrely, they are at a Wal-Mart, but my Wisconsin Wal-Mart doesn’t carry them. Because I wasn’t able to come here last summer, due to breast cancer, it’s been two years since I pulled on a new pair of these particular jeans.
I bought two pairs. I might go back and get another.
After I pulled on the jeans, I went for a walk by the ocean. The jeans snugged me in a way that was crisp and new, but familiar. The sun fell on my shoulders. The ocean provided a rhythm my bones recognize and I stepped easily around detritus not found at home – jellyfish, crabs, scads of smoothed stones and broken shells. I watched cormorants and pelicans dive. Seagulls bobbled like popcorn on the waves. A bald eagle winged past. A not-so-lucky seagull became the meal of a vulture on the beach. I turned my face away. The blue of the sky and the blue of the ocean surrounded me with forever and timelessness.
One year and one day ago, I was in my shower, thinking about how I would word my Facebook status after my doctor called to tell me that the mass found in my right breast was a fluke. That phone call came in while I was still in the shower. I slammed the water off, held a towel to my forehead to keep the shampoo from streaming into my eyes, and answered the phone I’d perched on the toilet, because I knew the call would come when I was in the shower. It had to. That’s when all important phone calls occur.
My doctor’s voice is consistently cheerful, and it remained cheerful when he said the biopsy was positive. I heard cheerful and I heard positive and I thought, well, positive is a good word. It’s good news.
I learned that day that positive is sometimes negative.
When we hung up, I turned the shower back on, and I cranked the faucet to the highest temp possible. And then I slid down to a sit on the floor of the tub and I cried.
What followed was a mass of new things and experiences and words: ultrasounds, MRI’s, partial mastectomy, Stage 1, no, Stage 2, but Grade 1, radiation, maybe chemotherapy, no chemotherapy, but burn, baby, burn in 20 rounds of radiation, skin forever differently colored, an ice cream scoop dollop out of the right breast, and a breast itself that is numb and no longer feels soft, but firm and unforgiving like a soccer ball.
It’s been an adjustment. I learned that positive could mean negative.
But today. One year and one day after the start of all that. I pulled on a new pair of jeans and relished them. Every seam, every pocket, every thread of blue denim. I walked in the new and rejoiced in the old and felt the heat of the sun and the rhythm of a timeless ocean. I soaked in the blue. I soaked in it.
I’m still here. And I’m wearing new blue jeans. After a period of time where I thought the jeans I owned and wore threadbare would be my last.
Not only have I learned that sometimes, a positive can be negative, but also, sometimes, a negative can turn positive.
If I could’ve hugged the ocean today, I would have. If I could’ve hugged the whole world today, I would have.
Instead, my jeans hugged me. And I soaked in the blue. Blue jeans, blue sky, blue ocean.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.