Wing – VII: Love

“The way that birdsong at first light helps birds to locate themselves and each other – in essence remapping their place in the world each day – so do we locate ourselves daily by the voicing and interplay of standing by our core and by engaging in the art of facing things.” – Mark Nepo from Finding Inner Courage

Last night we lost our beloved kitty companion Necco. She was part of my life for almost 17 years. 

Today marks one month since I lost my right breast. She was part of my life for almost 40 years.

I want them both back. It is a deep, aching, heart breaking want. I carry that want as I face today. Tomorrow. And the rest of my life. 

I’m not finding comfort yet. Just breathing in the connection of love and loss and holding on…

To the touch of Necco’s nose to my hand. 

To the call of two owls my mom and I heard last Sunday morning.

I am here.

So am I.

Snail – V: Loss

Snail – V: Loss

Walking in the woods with my dad, we came across a tiny, empty snail shell. The inhabitant was gone. Yet in the loss, something still existed. 

An eight inch incision and a round indent. That is what remains of my right breast.

Like a footprint or an empty shell, the space is a reminder of what was once there. It is also something true on its own.

Whale – VI: Belong

“Do not base your life on what can be taken from you.” – Pema Chodron

The distinctive feature of the male narwhal is an 8 foot long horn. The clear purpose for the horn is unknown. 

On Tuesday I had my right breast removed. The space remaining is numb and slightly concave. I haven’t taken the bandage off yet.

My left breast remains.

My family and friends surround me. Love me. I still belong with them. 

Still, when I see the picture of a narwhal pod in the deep, cold waters near Greenland, I realize what I’ve gained in the loss of my breast.

I belong to another pod now too.

Wing – VI: Emerge

“Listen, whatever it is you try to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you like the dreams of your body…”  – Mary Oliver from Humpbacks in American Primitive

The myth of transformation is that it is sudden, clean and wondrous; requiring magic, but little to no effort. Duckling to swan, frog to prince, beast to beauty.

I’m grateful for nature to show me true.

Like the awkward, messy, drawn out emergence from chrysalis to butterfly, my body is coming out of chemo. Itchy skin. Uneven hair growth. A search for muscle beneath fat and definition under puffiness.

I am not emerging as the same.

I guess that is the point.

Crab – IV: Reflect

Crab – IV: Reflect

“…the longer we let relationships unfold, the more we see how everything goes together and how answering the needs of others depends on how we accept what we’re given as unexpected medicine, even if it’s not what we want.” – Mark Nepo from Finding Inner Courage

In my first blog post I wrote about being at the beach with my mom, soon after my cancer diagnosis, witnessing a scuttle of crabs.

That was eight months ago.

Yesterday I met again with the surgeon. In January I will have a mastectomy to remove my right breast. I’ve decided against reconstruction.

Tonight I’m reflecting on that afternoon at the beach. There was one crab that we watched as it followed the incoming tide. We could easily track it. It only had one large white front claw.

Snail – IV: Room

“Always be ready for happiness.” -George Selden, from The Cricket in Times Square

I am in awe that I have room for cancer and for happiness. And I do. I have even more room for happiness now than for fear or anxiety. How that happened is a beautiful question…one I will continue answering for a long time.

Snails range in size from a few centimeters to a foot in length. Yet they always have room in their shells to pull their bodies completely inside. The shell can hold all that we see – like the foot and the head, and all that we don’t – like the heart and the lungs. 

I also imagine that shell holds a cozy chair, a warm blanket and a cup of tea… 

Or whatever might make a snail happy.

Whale – V: Visible

There is only one known albino humpback whale in the world. He lives near Australia. His name is Migaloo.

In the dark depths of the ocean, Migaloo is easily spotted. His glowing white skin is so different from the gray-blue camoflauge of his humpback family. He can’t help being visible.

This evening I went to the grocery store without a hat on. It wasn’t on purpose.

It was raining. I had the hood up on my sweatshirt. But when I got inside the store my hot flashes started (a side effect from chemotherapy) and I reflexively pulled down my hood…


Visible now was my almost-bald head and Migaloo-white scalp. Visible now was my illness.

“October is breast cancer awareness month…”  started the public service announcement over the store’s loudspeaker.

I decided to experience the visibility. I kept my hood down the entire trip.

It was harder than I thought it would be.