Friend L. puts a cappuccino in front of me. She looks questioningly at me as I take my first sip and I see how she prepares for some cancer-related questions. I keep my hands up defensively. “Only nice things today,” I say quickly.
My radiation treatment starts in two weeks. I go to the hospital every day for a month. Until then, I’m trying to take a cancer break. I’m just passing VU Medical Center for a breathing exercise. To prevent my heart from being irradiated and damaged later.
Tomorrow Duncan and I are going to Paris for five full days, just the two of us. Our relationship could use a boost. So I hope I can relax. Physically I’m fine. My chest hurts a little less every day. I am at least determined to take it well old fashioned, in bed and out. Now it is still possible.
“Okay, tell me all about your orgy,” I say.
L. begins to shine as she explains in detail how a meeting with two other couples turned into a love affair.
When she’s done she sighs theatrically. “Man, this resistance was also necessary. I’ve been very bored in bed lately – unbearable.”
I nod a little frugally.
L. and I are cut from the same cloth. I used to be afraid of ruts between the sheets. We now live in parallel universes. God, how I long for my problems from that time.
I’m looking at my watch. I’m going to the hospital in an hour. Time for action. I get up and go to L’s closet. She has an enviable lingerie collection and I would like to borrow a set that covers my chest for Paris. I pull a black nothing from a hanger, look at it and then realize: I can forget all about that kind of transparent thing for the rest of my life.
“It will look good on you,” L. says, looking over my shoulder.
“Can not use my knife,” I declare, hanging the package back.
“Oh yeah, shit … Do I have to see it already?”
This is the second time she asks. I share everything with my friends. But not this, until now. The grief over the mutilation was too much for me. But it has now been more than four weeks since the operation. I have to believe it one day. And then I expose my upper body while studying L’s face.
I see her swallow. Then she nods. I put my top on again and am especially grateful for what she does not say. That it works e.g. Because that’s not how I experience it.
L. pushes me aside a bit and grabs a bodystocking – with a nice bra in and a hole in the crotch. I try on the package and look very satisfied on my mirror image. Well, I do not look like a cancer patient at all.
“Wait a second!” I am calling. Two nurses look down at me with wrinkled eyebrows. I’m lying on the table for the impressive radiation machine – my body is covered in stickers. The women have brushes in their hands, soaked with light pink ink.
They’re pissing me off with this. They were going to paint lines on my torso, I was just told – from my navel to my arms to my cleavage. So I can be placed in this device in exactly the same way every day. I have to keep track of the artwork at home with a blue ink.
I sit up and plead my prayer. “Can’t I be covered for later, please? I’ll be treated in two weeks and go to Paris with my boyfriend.”
It is not possible. Please lie down again.
Of course I have bigger problems. But I longed to feel sexy one last time before I ended up getting sick and losing my hair for several months. This was my light in the dark.
The break of cancer?
As the tassels slide across my body, leaving thick pink marks, I think of the spicy package in my bag. I do not want to wear the suit.
I call myself to order: behave normally. This is nothing compared to all the other misery. But I must try with all my might to hold back the tears. I can write that cancer break on the stomach. Forget being sick – a challenge at all – when walking around like an alien from a science fiction movie.
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