How many of you have stopped to think about how you would face the following issue?
Your partner calls you up and is sobbing on the phone. You can’t make out what you are being told so you naturally try and calm her. Finally, amidst gulped breaths, snorts and sniffs, you hear the word that everyone dreads hearing … cancer.
Many of us would say something like … it will be ok … or, don’t worry, I’m right here for you. At that time, we really mean it, but what about 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years down the road. Will it still be ok? Will we still be right there for them?
I was the one on the end of the phone sobbing. I was the one that heard those words. Not once, but over and over again during a period of just over three months. But when it boiled down to it. That wasn’t the way it turned out at all.
As those of you who have read through my blog know, I’m a breast cancer survivor. When I was diagnosed, I had been in a long term relationship for … let me think … 22 and a half years. I had more than a few surgeries during the three months, the last, as you know, being a radical bilateral mastectomy. I never gave a thought to the scars during thie days prior to any of my surgeries. All I wanted was to beat this vicious beast that knows no bounds of age, sex, colour or race. It wasn’t until I came home from the hospital that my scars became an issue both to my partner and myself.
I would wake up with the cold sweats, I had recurring nightmares, I was convinced it was all a bad dream and that I would wake up and the scars would be gone and my body would be complete and whole again. To make matters far more worse and in actual fact, played a huge part in my growing to hate my scars was that from the day I came home, my partner refused to look at or touch them. They weren’t discussed, though I wanted to and almost assuredly needed to, as part of the mental healing process.
Our physical interactions ceased. Maybe a few kisses on the cheek, but nothing more. It hurt me more than anything in my life had ever hurt me and ended up causing me problems for almost seven years.
My partner passed away, probably never realizing how I felt, though I know many times I tried to sit down and talk about it. To say that they didn’t hurt (a bit of a lie since I had extensive nerve damage and still to this day get the occaisional “zap of electricity”), that I was still the same person even though my body looked different. I really felt like instead of running away from my scars, that getting to know them was more important because through them and my undying will to live, I had survived.
It was about 7 years later that someone other than a doctor, nurse or myself actually touched them. Not only touched them but looked at them, traced round them, recognized them for what they were and said the words that she had said many times before, without having seen them … “it doesn’t matter”. I remember it like it was yesterday. The sound of her soft voice, the tender touch of her fingertips, the look on her face and it still brings tears to my eyes.
Until that day, I had not had any sexual interactions with anyone. Until that day, I didn’t know what it meant to be accepted, physically for who I was now. This woman, with her ocean blue eyes, broke the spell that had held me captive for so long. Does she love me? Yes, but in her own way. Does she care? Yes, she does. But my partner also loved and cared, she just couldn’t face the scars and I’ll never know why.
Loving and caring doesn’t always bring with it total acceptance. Especially when something changes that is beyond our control. It holds no guarantees, either. When bodies become modified, whether electively or not, more often than not, there are consequences. Its not like cutting your hair, because your hair will grow back. The scars will always be there as a constant reminder of life’s little misfortunes, of the people that turned away but also of the tender moments when you meet someone with no insecurities that makes you feel whole again.