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So Sorry, But You Won't Be Missed

I forgot to go to radiation one day last week. It was one of those rare occasions when I was actually engrossed in work and just plain forgot. When I arrived late, the nurse said, "I'm glad it's such a non-event in your life." Exactly, I thought.

That non-event has been a thorn in my side and is now an itchy red mess, and it's about to be over. There isn't a single thing I'll miss about radiation, unlike chemo when there was some bittersweet, ecstatic, confused ending. Then, there was camaraderie, like some battle, where I was headed home and the rest stayed to carry on the fight.

I won't miss opening that steely locker, hoping that the coral, not the blue, hospital gown is on top of the stack, and that it isn't too starched. I prefer the ones that feel like a worn, floaty old summer sheet, the kind at shoddy beach houses mostly. And I won't miss the part after when I struggle to get out a navy robe from the too-small wiry shelf shoved precariously into that small space. I almost always yank out the whole damn thing. It seems I'm the only one who ever cares to wear them, but there are boys, men, whatever, in the waiting area here, too.

I undress, top only, but I take off the bottom sometimes, just forgetting, or I'm wearing a dress, and then after I lay down on the table, they remind me "top only." I know, I say, I'm wearing a dress. Next time I just pull the top of my dress down. Make little jokes, small talk, the weather, work. How much can you say in five minutes?

I won't miss walking past the sign that says, "Danger, Radiation," wondering what exactly it means for me, and what it even is anyway. The nurse explained to me the other day that I'm in the last days of treatment here, and now I'm getting a "boost" on my scar because recurrences occur here most often. It's only surface radiation – electrons – which is different from the protons that penetrated deep into my chest wall, bouncing off bones, fragments brushing my lungs and inducing a barely noticeable dry cough, intoxicating my throat with a funny feeling. The bad coffee and the fake creamer. I won't miss any of it.

I went to the pool today, and my little fake boobie was almost completely out of my bathing suit because I can't feel it exactly, in a way that I don't notice when it's all out there, nekked. I just happened to look down and see it, really, scary close to the edge. Seriously close. Got to watch out for that sneaky little gal. I've kinda been wanting to show it off anyway.

The Kindness of Strangers

Little Poem for a Big Man