Yes, I know it’s the end of June. Yes, I’m aware that means that Summer has announced itself in no uncertain terms (or temperatures). It hardly seems an appropriate time to rhapsodize about the life-giving season that is Spring. Although it may be a little late, I assure you, this Spring was worth acknowledging, both in health and in fashion!
Now that Spring has already opened up our hearts and wardrobes (Sheep Meadow, Mr Softee, sundresses!) it’s hard to recall what a wretched winter we had. Or at least, I had. Winter became the designated season of loss. Sweeping my newly chopped hair off the floor in February was just the beginning. I lost energy, eyebrows, motivation, mobility, courage, confidence, fingernails, and fight. Chemo hit me at all the weak spots in my life and bulldozed through them with no apologies until I had perfected the art of losing. While my self esteem was plummeting, there was one area of my life that was gaining. My weight.
As much as I had worked through the shock of my baldness, the almost 25 pound weight gain that accompanied my 6 treatments threw me into a tailspin that I could not bounce back from. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Aren’t you supposed to lose weight during chemo?! I had heard endless stories of losing all desire for food. The nurses hammered in the idea to eat whatever appealed to me since almost nothing will. I was supposed to eat all I could leading up to chemo (which I excelled at on our pre-treatment trip to Europe!) because for the next few months, eating would be a chore. But the first time the nausea hit, I wanted bread. The next day, mac and cheese. When I would wake up at 3am with unrelenting insomnia, cold leftovers eased my ravenous appetite. Huddled in the light of the fridge, cooling my hot flashes, I could rationalize it all: “I DESERVE THIS.” Didn’t I deserve this? I had cut out all bread, sugars, grains, unstable oils, anything that even hinted at feeding my cancer for four months. Now I wanted dessert. ALL OF THE DESSERT. Every meal required it. I had rewritten the rules of the cancer diet. Rule #1: Eat whatever the fuck you want. You have cancer and you deserve it. No need for any more rules.
Turns out, you can’t eat 7 full meals a day and exclusively lay on the couch without gaining some weight. More weight than I had ever held on my body. I began to feel like a science experiment. Every doctor’s appointment weigh-in showed a higher number on the scale. Once, I saw the same nurse in April that I hadn’t seen since January. When I stepped on the scale her eyes bulged out of her head more than my stomach bulged over my jeans. She double checked the number three times before I finally told her “Yeah, I’ve gained a little weight”.
“A LOT of weight,” she corrected me as she shoved the thermometer in my mouth.
Spring arrived just in time.
Basically everything in my life changed as soon as the blooms started arriving on the trees. My chemo ended in April but my mastectomy wasn’t coming up until the summer which allowed me a glorious sweet spot of replenishing. My health sprung back into action. My chemo brain melted slowly, washing away like the black snow on the sidewalk. Peter and I relocated to Los Angeles via a cross country road trip filled with memories and yes, more food. But the best thing by far to happen was the “Spring” that revisited me when I was sure the season had past.
In late March, I was cast as Ilse, my favorite role I’ve ever had the pleasure to play, in the Deaf West production of the musical Spring Awakening. For those of you who don’t know, I was in the original Broadway production of this show almost ten years ago. But this version incorporated hearing and deaf actors in a breathtaking display of song and sign language. I would have never imagined this show would come back around but the director, Michael Arden, gave me the gift of revisiting it. At my lowest opinion of myself, he gave me an opportunity to shine, to feel useful, to step outside of my own pain and into the beauty of a new world. We incorporated my baldness into the character which allowed me to be brave with my appearance. My weight began to decrease steadily as I threw my body into performing. It was a glorious feeling. I could almost feel the old me waking slowly after spending the winter hibernating inside my soft body.
There’s a lyric in Spring Awakening that has always been my favorite and it was particularly relevant to me in this phase of my life. I would listen to it every night and breathe in it’s meaning, allowing the truth of it to wash over me.
The stars, too,
They tell of Spring returning.
And summer with another wind that no one yet has known.
Everything in my life was pointing toward a new beginning. Spring was on it’s way and I just had to follow my destiny there. This lyric eased me every time I would think about my impending summer surgery. Each season has it’s own wind, it’s unique emotional weight that cannot be anticipated. It can only be felt as it’s arriving. I still have a long way to go in accepting my new appearance and accepting it is the first step to changing it. But in the meantime, I will honor each season as it comes, releasing it when it is time to face the next. Let’s see what the summer brings!
Stay tuned to see some of my favorite Spring looks!