the not-so-naked truth

I stood on the deck of the ferry today and stuck my head out into the cold wind just to feel the rain against my cheeks. I had every expectation that I should be blessed with an orca sighting, which didn’t happen, though I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of the wind whipping salty water at me as I took in the sights of the San Juan islands. It seemed fitting that my first weekend without chemo would would be one filled with icy rain, wind, and a power outage. Because of the extreme weather, Irene and I were forced to rest more and to think of creative ways to enjoy our celebratory weekend on Orcas Island. It was fantastic.

Doe Bay Resort was a good place to land as we marked our first official infusion free Friday. The  sun was actually shining at the very time I would have been receiving my chemotherapy a week before, and I honored that moment by bowing toward the water and smiling at the sky. I didn’t feel any need for more than that- just a simple acknowledgement of my gratitude for the end of one leg of my journey. We then checked in and made house in the cutest little cabin we could have hoped for. Our cabin, “Churi”, was nessled under some trees and sat just above a meadow where we were graced by the presence of a local cat and a heard of deer. It was perfect.

Saturday, the day of the soon to be infamous Orcas Island power outage, Irene and I braved the elements to hike in the muddy but gorgeous Moran State Park. When we returned to the cabin (which had power by this time), I decided I was ready to exerience the soaking tubs and sauna while Irene napped. I packed my bag with 2 towels and a bottle of water and made my way through the meadow to the tubs. My hope was that the stormy weather would keep most people in their cozy cabins. Even so, I believed I could be open and loving toward my body and that I was ready to sit in the hot mineral water regardless of who was there. When I arrived, the tubs were filled with young naked couples. Undaunted (yet), I prudishly undressed in the shower, and wrapped my towel (tightly) around my very flat chest (or lack thereof). I walked within 2 feet of the tubs and all of my courage melted. I made a beeline for the sauna in hopes that it would be empty. When I walked in, there was a young naked man sitting in a meditative lotus posture on his towel. I sat as far away from him as I could and decided that I would make the best of my experience by resting in the heat. As I sat there, I realized that I was (am) not even close to being ready to exposing my scars in public. I had no idea what a visceral reaction I would have to being around whole bodied people enjoying an evening of nude bliss, and it was painful to recognize what I can only describe as envy for their wholeness and grief for what I am so obviously lacking.

To be completely honest, I don’t think I would have been prepared to sit in a tub with naked strangers prior to my surgery. My hope was that I had become wiser and emotionally stronger since surgery and undergoing five months of chemotherapy. I truly believed that I had come to a place where I didn’t care what other people thought of my appearance, and that I could be a beautiful representation of a self confident breast cancer survivor. I also hoped that I could return home from our weekend at Doe Bay victorious in my bravery. Despite the fact that I couldn’t disrope to enter the tubs, I still feel strong and beautiful. And victorious.

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