New normal, new body

by Diana on April 13, 2009 · 7 comments

in Breast cancer, Musings

A difficult part of life after cancer treatment has been getting used to my new body. The truth is that I’m not completely comfortable writing about this subject right now, so I am only going to outline the basics here.

I do feel comfortable saying that it’s weird and complicated and that my body is just, well, different. I have weird aches and pains that I don’t like to talk about much. What makes them weird is simply that they’re different from my pre-cancer body, which was also just a younger body.

It makes me think of one of my favorite folk tales, an Irish tale about the selchie, the seal maiden. In the luminous musical version we listen to with my daughters, there is a part when the seal is stranded on the sand and loses her seal skin. Then she turns into a human girl. She tries to swim back out to sea to retrieve her seal skin, but she cannot because she does not know how to work her new body.

Of course, the challenge is not only because I feel as though I have a new body. The real challenge is that every one of my new aches and pains feels like it must be cancer. It’s very difficult to deal with these aches and pains without worrying.

But I do try.

I went to dance class tonight (I take modern dance classes) and was so happy to see someone who hasn’t been to classes in years. She has been facing some very complicated health issues and only now has returned to class. I could tell that she was feeling frustrated during class, but she looked as lovely as she ever did, with gorgeous dancer’s fingers and hands, very natural and graceful.

Watching my friend make her way through class inspired me. And my teacher offered me spot-on corrections to get me through.

There are moments, during dance class, when I am happily lost in the movements and the music, and for a few seconds, I never had cancer. It’s thrilling. And then I return to myself, my new body, my new normal. And that’s OK too. It really is.


1 Laurie April 13, 2009 at 9:27 pm

What a beautiful blog, Diana. Thank you for sharing what you are going through. Though you are still facing down the fears and frustrations that came with this ordeal, we are so happy to know you are dancing again!

2 Diana April 14, 2009 at 6:12 am

Thanks so much for your kind words, Laurie. I especially appreciate what you said because I find that I often don’t like to share what I am going through because I don’t want to complain. I am just so happy to be here that it feels ridiculous to complain about aches and pains.

Dance class is something that helped me through the whole ordeal of treatment last year. My friends and my teacher were rocks during the storm, and of course it just felt good to go dance after huddling in bed for a few days after a round of chemo.

3 Soochal April 14, 2009 at 8:17 am

My sweet Diana. I understand, as best I can, how each new pain can trigger the fear of cancer. How awful that must be, but you are doing exactly as I believe you should – you are dancing in cancer’s ugly face – spinning, stretching, showing it that you are not going to let it win. Every single day that we wake up is a good one for dancing… Much love to you.

4 Genevieve April 14, 2009 at 11:07 am

I cannot possibly imagine all that you have been through nor all that you still continue to go through, both emotionally and physically. I can only imagine how every ache and pain might stir up fears of the worst. :( I really like what Soochal said – “you are dancing in cancer’s ugly face” and showing it who’s boss.

5 Diana April 14, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Thanks Thoo (BTW, in show-and-tell, Dinah told her class that she went to San Fran to see you and she told the story about how she and her sister called you Thoo when they were little … it was so cute!) for your encouraging words. I agree that every day is a good day for dancing, literally and figuratively. And thanks for your affirmation, too, Genevieve!

6 radioactive tori April 16, 2009 at 7:15 am

I had cancer recently and completely understand your thoughts on this. I think this is the part of cancer that I didn’t expect…that after you are “done”, you are never quite done with it all. I love that you shared your thoughts on this. I wish I had known to expect this before I experienced it!

7 Laura Lohr April 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I survived cervical cancer some 10 years ago and while I never went through radiation, I can relate with what you expressed in a lot of ways. What a lovely way you articulated it! The Irish folktale is a beautiful analogy.

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