ONE DAY LEFT
Deep breath. It’s finally here. The last day of life as I know it. Deep breath. But the key word here is LIFE. This is the point, so in all fairness, breasts don’t really matter if the exchange is living.
Words are not coming as easily today, but I also know that the pause at the keyboard is part of the writing process. Staying in the present moment is advantageous for me and my sanity and writing is what does this for me. I had a pretty jam packed day yesterday and was really wiped emotionally. All I wanted to do all day was get home and write. Writing is my peace and clearly I have a lot to say.
There are a few other things that give me the type of peace that writing does. My inner circle of friendship and my illustrious and incredible team of employees who are so important in my freedom to go to the hospital with no worries about my life after surgery. I gratefully and prayerfully bow to their immense and tender care and love.
Knowing that my former husband and I have such a close relationship despite our divorce six years ago creates a calmness knowing he is there for our son in a way that is deeply loving and respectful for our non traditional family. That my son who is my greatest love of my life takes great comfort knowing his mother is a warrior and he is too because of my actions not just my words. Our bond is a gift from hard work and self awareness and the mistakes of my own parents ineptitude of parenting.
The depth of my partner and my connection in our accepting and allowing and appreciating and affections for each other as we navigate this health crisis trying to weave our way through the changes that are inevitable but keeping our eye on the big prize through it all, LIFE. He reminds in my panicked anxious state of this as he offers nuggets like, “this is temporary and alayne, you know I don’t care what your breasts look like, they have nothing to do with my love for you.” I know this but the reminders are nourishing and holy for my ears.
Another is my 6:00am morning chats with my Aunt Kiley. Kiley and I speak almost every morning and have for a long time. I don’t actually remember when we started these chats, but if I have even a moment of anxiety in my life just knowing that I can dial her and she will answer calms me. There are lots of women in my life that have filled in maternally for me. The gaping hole of maternal absence is especially absent in times like these, but my aunt has been a constant force in my life. She is only fifteen years older than me and has been a mentor, a friend and a constant example of unconditional no strings attached love.
I don’t put her in a “she’s been like a mother to me,” category because I never really think of her like this. In fact, I don’t really know what “been like a mother to me” even means. I can witness the dream when I see interactions between friends and their mothers, but the essence of our closeness is much more like a deep sister bond. As a matter of fact, when I call her in the morning and she doesn’t answer, which is highly unusual, I automatically think she is lying on the floor somewhere in her house and I panic promptly. Usually she is already out at the grocery store shopping and didn’t hear the phone ring at the crazy early hour that only she and I can think is a perfectly normal time to be out at the grocery store.
She knows me like no one because she has known me since before I was born. Unlike my father’s side of the family who have also known me, they don’t really know what it was like as intensely as Kiley did in my growing up with Ann as my mother. Many people wonder where Ann is during this traumatic time in my life, but oddly it doesn’t really cross my mind too often because Ann has that unique habit of when the going gets tough, turn off the phone, move to a new state and just hope that all of this pain won’t follow her. This has been her pattern for most of her life and as a result, my example. But Kiley, steady, constant Kiley has taught me otherwise not because she was on a quest to try to teach me this, but because she loves me like a daughter I suppose, but as a person, as a human being, as a woman.
The vestiges of Ann show up as I move through this in the ways that certain people in my life trigger those Ann buttons that no matter how much work I do on my shit, those fucking buttons light up out of left field. People who I have been close to who don’t even acknowledge this cancer with so much as a phone call or a card or even a thank you note for things I have done for them while I have been burdened by this diagnosis push those expectation buttons and can work me into a tailspin. But because I have done so much work, what I have realized is that the awareness of the buttons are the gift. When the washing machine spin cycle feelings come up and I feel that gurgling rush, I know that it is just more work to be done so in a twisted (no pun intended) way, the buttons, the energy that shows up is an opportunity to take my personal work to the next rung on the ladder.
The tailspin as I have come to understand has two elements involving power. I can give it away by staying in the tailspin or I can finish the cycle by using the spin as a way to squeeze every bit of power back into me. As we say in Alanon and all 12 Step Programs, “The first step is awareness.” Yep, got that. My grandmother used to quote someone, “He who hath no expectations, shan’t be disappointed.” There is so much wisdom to this, but we know that this is hard. What I am learning is that my really nutty outlandish high expectations can soften. I like expectations. Without them there are no goals or parameters of which to define what relationships I want to keep or release. But I also realize that basic human decency and gratitude and kindness are three expectations that I now command in my relationships and simply will release any of these that are not being met.
The great thing about not hearing from certain people you would expect to otherwise hear from is that it much more easily allows the removal of them. There is no in between. It is a very easy period not a comma at the end of a sentence and that sentence speaks volumes about their own sense of self righteousness. I want charitable grateful people around me and I would rather have a small group of gratitude and kind hearts than then opposite, hands down, as I imagine most would want. Remember all things and people in our lives are decisions and choices. Cancer diagnosis gives that choice as a free pass.
The work I have done in the last month with these writings has been a metamorphosis for me as I have learned so much about human nature and gratitude. The kindness of strangers offering to show their breasts and their scars and their stories with me is a type of humility that I want around me. The breast cancer Christmas that I have joked of has been this influx of tangible thoughtful gifts just randomly being dropped off at my home from people I only lightly know or only know me from my writings. Cards in my mail, in my inbox are a constant reminder that when the going gets tough, the goodness in people shows up. The intangible are those phone calls to my team from clients and friends who want to be sure I know they are praying for me, with me and that their prayers are powerful. The tender moments between friends as they take on my life after surgery without so much as a blink of an eye, pausing their lives for my needs is a humble depth that is hard to write about because it is a feeling deep in my core where words are not invented.
I have heard from my boyfriend that I had when I was fifteen to twenty one. I have heard from friends I hung out with during my teens that I haven’t seen in years. I have heard from a childhood friend who I haven’t seen in over twenty years. They have shared their stories and their love and it has warmed me in a way that when I am on the other side of this will probably think it was all a dream.
Ahh the (ironic) gifts of cancer, what has been an eye rolling cliché for me since my first hearing of the words, “Your biopsy was positive.” And “The odds of having the BRCH2 genetic mutation are 12%.” And the call as I was walking with my friend, Kathy on beautiful Poppasquash Rd. in Bristol, RI in one of my favorite parts of the walk, the view of downtown on the right across the bay and the entrance to Colt State Park on the left, “Is this a good time.”? I paused, looked around and realized how lucky I was that the knowing phone call with the news I would soon be receiving was happening in one of the most beautiful scenic spots in the state and the town I live in and love.
“Yes, this is a perfect time.”
Alayne and Michael. Alayne Michael and Kiley. Alayne Michael and Dave. Ahhhh so blessed.