Three Down, Fifteen To Go

Yesterday I completed my third chemo session, which means I have completed one three-week cycle. Week one I receive two drugs and week two and three I receive one drug. And then we start all over again the following week. This will continue until we have completed six cycles, or eighteen weeks total. I’ve decided to start counting down from eighteen, so it will feel like the numbers are getting smaller, rather than starting smaller and working my way up. For whatever reason that is making me feel better from a psychological standpoint.

I am very fortunate that I haven’t really had any negative reaction to the chemo drugs so far. I feel pretty good during the day and am able to accomplish small tasks without any issues. I know to expect to hit the wall, so to speak, in the afternoon/early evening. I just feel tired and want to do things that don’t require much mental or physical activity. Yesterday, when I hit that point of being done with the day’s activities, we watched episodes of Orange is the New Black and snacked on popcorn and kale chips.

I’ve been using some of my current energy to plan artwork and collaborative pieces for a series of artwork that will be about my illness, as well as my surgery and loss of my “lady parts”. I roped Sam into working on it with me and now we have two other friends collaborating with us. It makes me feel good to be working with other female friends who work in different mediums on this. So far there will be photography, fibers, mixed-media, and ceramic work included. I am really excited about it and am hoping to find a gallery in San Francisco that will be interested in giving us a show. I was also considering Seattle, but SF is my first choice.

I spoke of my three-week chemo cycles. My friend Maria will be photographing me at the end of each cycle to document my physical appearance as I move through this process. There will be six portraits total. There will be a few other pieces that are personal, but otherwise we are working on expressing universal ideas and feelings that represent women who have had hysterectomies and also the notion of what makes a woman a woman. I’ve been asked if losing my “lady parts” means I am less of a woman. I say anyone who puts individual parts above the whole of a person is missing the big picture. If my doctor told me tomorrow that I needed a double-mastectomy because I was at high-risk for breast cancer, I wouldn’t even hesitate to say yes.

Why do breasts or a uterus define a woman’s worth? I recently was told of a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer who was refusing surgery because she couldn’t live with the thought of not having breasts anymore. Now that I am looking at things from the other side of a cancer diagnosis, I would never refuse a surgery needed to save my life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blindly follow what I’m told to do, but I thoroughly research things and ask questions and make informed decisions. Refusing a life-saving surgery because others want to define my worth by my breasts or other bits is something I couldn’t reconcile. I also am fortunate enough to have a spouse who prioritizes my health and well-being over whether or not I have certain body parts. She sees me as a whole person and would never love me less because I had my breasts removed or, like my current situation, had a total hysterectomy.

I am really excited to see where this series of artwork takes us. So many great ideas have already presented themselves and I know there will be more as the weeks and months of chemotherapy go on. It’s a great way to distract ourselves and keep ourselves busy during our down time. Yes, there will be a lot of uterus-related work, but then that is the center of where this whole new reality started for me. There is no room for feeling shame over talking about lady parts. If anything, we need to be more open and able to discuss them in public in order to guarantee cancer-screenings and health care for all. Early detection is what saves lives and I am a prime example of that. The word uterus should not bring shame to anyone, although I have made a grown man blush by simply uttering the word out loud in front of him. I’m actually pretty proud of that moment, because he is the kind of guy who thinks we just shouldn’t talk about such things. I disagree, obviously.

Say it with me, “uterus, uterus, uterus”. See? It isn’t really a big deal, now is it?


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