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Cancer. lol.

Some people laugh in church. It's kind of like that...

By Tracy WillisPublished 6 months ago 4 min read
Cancer. lol.
Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash

Before I was diagnosed it made me very uncomfortable when people with cancer made jokes about it. About cancer. It came across as forced - like they were protecting themselves by acting like there was something hilarious about it, blatantly signaling feigned acceptance of this piece of shit disease. Later, after navigating through a few phases of my own experience, I dabbled a little with the joke thing. Sometimes doing so felt pathetic and at times mildly humorous and, in the best of times, unavoidable hilarious.

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 recap.

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 curated, 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 or delicious that was out of reach, to devising 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, which was unavailable. There was no reverse order process working here. It reminded me of the time I drank way too much wine at an 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-inspred meltdown.

The meltdown was circumvented by a moment of pure, inspired genius. As I lay in a 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.


About the Creator

Tracy Willis

My lifelong love of storytelling and reading has brought me here…the stories keep me here.

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Comments (2)

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  • Ghost Writer4 months ago

    Love your spirit, Tracy.

  • Kim5 months ago

    Tracyyy! whole-brain genius 🖤🔥

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