Friday, September 18, 2009
T-minus 3 months
Today marks exactly three months until my surgery. Or, to put it a different way, my breasts have 90 days to live.
For the past few weeks, I've been blissfully at peace with my decision, so much so that I find myself thinking, why on earth did I ever make such a big deal about this in the first place? They're just breasts. Big whoop. I'll have new (and some might say, given my natural asymmetry, improved) "boobs" the moment I wake up from surgery; it's just the insides that will have changed. Such a trade is so worth it to evade the specter of cancer.
Which brings me, of course, to Patrick Swayze (seamless transition, no?). I'd be massively remiss not to note his passing here on my blog. And it's not really such a stretch to do so, given that one of the cancers associated with the BRCA2 mutation is pancreatic. It's a terrifying disease that usually portends a quick death and rarely spares its victims. G's uncle passed away from pancreatic cancer a few years back, and I know he is haunted by that history and fears a similar fate (though he has no genetic reason to suspect so). Patrick Swayze fought a very public battle against the disease, and though he ultimately lost, I'm grateful that he lived in the spotlight as a cancer patient (even if I disagreed with his choice to continue smoking -- a known cause of pancreatic cancer -- during his treatments). Too often, we mere mortals deify celebrities and fantasize about how much better our lives would be if we were rich and famous like they are. But movie stars are, of course, human too, and they get sick. And sometimes die. When someone like that -- someone who is larger than life -- so publicly withers into a shell of his former self, we're all reminded of our own fragile mortality, and how important it is to value our health while we have it.
My relationship to Patrick Swayze began, like most of my peers (ie: girls near or under the age of 10 in 1987), with the film "Dirty Dancing." My parents would not allow me to see it, which, of course, only made me want to see it more. (I laugh about this now, given how tame the movie is compared to, say, most Britney Spears videos.) So when my friend M showed it at her slumber party, I felt half guilty and half pleased I was breaking the rules. There is a split second shot of Patrick Swayze's butt as he he gets out of bed after doing it with Jennifer Grey, and the girls and I rewound and paused and rewound and paused it so much I'm surprised we didn't break the tape. We were so young, so unaware of what sex or love or lust was, so prepubescent, and yet we still recognized Johnny Castle's unmistakable sex appeal.
I was teaching on Monday night when one of my students told me Patrick Swayze had died, and when I got home, G popped in the DVD of his favorite of Swayze's ouvre: Road House. It's still hard to believe that a man like Dalton could ever be humbled by disease, but cancer is the great equalizer: it's an equal opportunity killer. Even our icons can succumb.
Cancer, even the most curable varieties, is an unwelcome visitor to anyone's life, and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to block its access to my body. Very few people have that option. And if I chose not to have surgery and one day got sick, I don't know if I could forgive myself for not taking the chance when I could. So in reflecting about all of this, especially following the cancer death of one of my childhood hearthrobs, I'm reassured I'm making the right choice.
In honor of Patrick Swayze, let's remember him like he used to be. With amazing (and voluminous) hair.