Cancer. lol.

Before I knew I was diagnosed it made me very uncomfortable when people with cancer made jokes about it. About cancer. It came across as forced and lame- like they were trying too hard not to mask reality, protecting themselves by acting like there was something hilarious about it. Later, after navigating through a few phases of my own cancer acceptance, I dabbled a little with the joke thing. Sometimes doing so felt pathetic and sometimes mildly humorous, but sadly, nothing at all like the bonafide lol’s of my pre-cancerous humor.

Fortunately, nobody puts funny in the corner and my funny stuff returned in the form of a private sketch comedy routine (starring me) that rivaled (or at least mimicked) an I Love Lucy sketch. The scene took place in my bedroom and bathroom and was wholly unwitnessed. I will do my best to translate.

About a week or so after my bilateral mastectomy and my caregiver brigade had returned to their respective homes, I was pretty much on my own. It was hot in my house and I was bored. I was also more than ready to get out of my carefully selected, functional sleepwear and put something NORMAL on. Keep in mind that after the deed was done, I was left with what my surgeon dubbed  “T-Rex arms.” T-Rex arms are very limiting. Besides the good parts (exemption from laundry and pretty much every other household chore) they make high things hard to get down. I spent a lot of time during those weeks staring longingly at things I wanted to get down from far up. It reminded me of the times I would catch my kids as toddlers, eyeing something shiny that was out of reach, trying to devise a plan to get at it. With my elbows temporarily anchored to my sides, I couldn’t get at much, but on that day I was eyeing a particular dress that I really wanted to wear, devising my own strategy.


It took me 15 minutes to shimmy  the super cute white sundress (that I had been waiting ages for good weather to wear) off its hanger. Somehow (looking back now it’s almost a small miracle) I managed to maneuver the dress over my head with my compromised little arm nubs and shove them through the holes. By the time I was in, I was exhausted but determined to achieve a pre-surgery look. So capable was I that I even managed to wrangle my hair and makeup into something resembling “put together.”  I felt amazing! Forget that I had nowhere to go and couldn’t drive a car yet even if I did have plans. And forget that I was still under the influence of the good stuff so maybe my judgment was slightly skewed. I was dressed, dammit, and I looked good.

After spending the day looking super fresh while binge watching Game of Thrones, it was time to change for bed. I realized quickly that I hadn’t really thought things through. After a couple feeble tugs at my dress it became abundantly clear that there was no way in hell I was going to make undressing happen without help. There was no reverse order process working here. It reminded me of the time I drank way too much wine at a charity event and ended up back in my hotel room wrestling a strappy sandal that wouldn’t unstrap. I tried for an hour before going into full panic mode, feeling like my ankle was being held hostage by my shoe. I finally freaked out and cut the strap off with a pair of nail clippers from my makeup bag. This stuck dress situation was like that. I was thrashing around my room, wedged in my  dress like a straight jacket. At one point I had my dinosaur arm hopelessly bent and stuck in my sleeve,  which pulled the neckhole so tight I was practically strangling myself. In all of the frenzy, I tripped on a chair and fell onto my bed, two seconds away from a big, fat, cancer meltdown.

The meltdown was circumvented in a moment of pure, inspired genius. As I lay in my tangled heap, I had a brilliant idea to tack the skirt of my dress with a safety pin to the highest part  of my shower curtain that I could reach. I then lowered myself to the bathroom floor as my dress slowly raised over my crumpled form. I stood there, wearing my hideously stupid, post-surgical camisole, stuffed with fake boob pillows, my drains hanging dopily at my sides and I stared at my dress, pinned to the shower curtain. It was really, really funny, and I couldn’t help but laugh. And I kept laughing, thankful for the idea, for my stroke of engineering genius, and thankful that cancer hadn’t kept me from wearing that dress. I laughed out loud like a crazy person who had all but forgotten how awesome a simple moment of hilarity could feel.



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