the women in my family get breast cancer

the women in my family 1

the women in my family 2

I know getting a mammogram doesn’t really mean I will get diagnosed with cancer. I know this. Getting mammograms regularly and doing self exams is how they would diagnose breast cancer early enough that my survival chances would be much better. And maybe I will never get cancer, that’s also a possibility.

But still.

I think I will always be waiting for that shoe to drop, in the back of my mind. Grasping on the edge of fear every time my breasts are squished between two glass plates, worrying that this mammogram might be The Mammogram. Every time I prod my breasts with my fingers in a circular pattern, dreading the possibility of A Lump.

I know that I am not guaranteed to get breast cancer.

But still.

I’m really scared that I will. That my body will betray me. That my son will sit with me at chemo, shave my head for me, make me radiation mix tapes, hear me vomit in the middle of the night and lie awake with the terrible knowledge that his mama might die. That he’ll have to live un-mothered too young.

I want to live to be really, really old, with Greg at my side reminding me where my glasses are, getting to watch our children grow up. I want to live at the beach. I want to LIVE. Live, live live. Grow to a ripe old age. Mother my children, love my husband, document and process my experiences through art, watch all the movies, eat all the popcorn, dance with my sister, howl at the moon, love it all.

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3 years

me with guitar (to match pic of mama)mama playing guitar.jpeg

The week before my mom died, my friend Leah took the top photo of me. It was inspired by the photo underneath of my mom playing guitar on her bed when she was a teenager. I’d been wanting to recreate that photo with myself as the subject for a while, and since Leah (who is a professional photographer) was in town, we thought it was a good opportunity to finally do it.

A few days later my mom died. April 18, 2013 was the strangest, longest, and hardest day. There were things we had to do, so we did them.

Three years later, yesterday, it’s still really strange and uncomfortable, my insides felt itchy and out of place. My emotions flipped around from sad to calm to angry to cranky to trying to shut down.

Three years in the After. Baby Smokey rolling and kicking in my belly, getting ready to come out. I wonder if he will have her ears.

november 11

The first time I drank Boddingtons was on a freezing February night in Syracuse in 2007. I had taken a Chinatown bus from New York that that arrived in a dark parking lot where Lee was waiting for me. We went to a crowded pub for dinner and he ordered two beers. “This will change you life,” he said.

My mom had very recently been diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time and Lee was the only person I wanted to talk to about it. I ignored all the calls coming to my cell phone that weekend– friends wanting to see if I was okay, because they’d heard from someone else about my mom. Lee and I walked around campus throwing snowballs at each other. We watched a soccer game on TV– the only soccer game I’ve ever actually watched. Argentina was playing. Lee made crepes for breakfast.

My bus back to New York left at 2am on Sunday from the same dark parking lot.

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March 10th, April 18th, September 6th and November 11th.

Those are the birth and death dates of two people I have lost. I always know when those days are coming, always feel it about a week away and it hangs on for a few days after. I want to do something momentous on those days and I also want to crawl into a cave of blankets and hide. Nothing I do is ever satisfying or important enough, and I never feel better.

Tonight I’m going to drink Lee’s favorite beer and try to just feel the shitty feelings and remember as many memories as possible. It’s never going to be fair or okay.

some morning drawings

coffee things sunshine flowers

I have my mom’s espresso pot now, so I can make lattes by microwaving the milk and whisking it so it gets frothy on top. That’s what we used to do every morning, until she couldn’t drink coffee anymore. When I lived at home, Mama and I would be in the house most days while my dad was at work. Our morning routine was coffee before anything else, whoever got up first would make it. I’d wake up to the sound of typing, Mama checking her email. I’d walk into her room and say good morning, then go downstairs to the kitchen and start the coffee.