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My Bodyodyody

by Kimber HarrisSurvivor, Breast CancerDecember 7, 2022View more posts from Kimber Harris

My body is the exquisite shell for my soul; it has endured and repaired, it is resilient, yet temporary. My body is my G-Ride . . . it takes me everywhere. My body is the shiny, hard, candy-coated exterior that houses my mind. My body is a first impression, a form to hang fashions on, it walks tall despite its five foot four stature. My body is strong and beautiful, soft, and warm. My body has won races, brawls, hiked trails, and rode horses. My body has floated in ponds, lakes, rivers, oceans, and pools. My body hit home runs and stole bases. My body lies still and meditates nightly. My body flipped and tumbled, it could fly and stunt. My body won games and athletic competitions—always fast, agile, and limber. My body moves through life, like a yoga practice … thriving and embracing the ebbs and flows. My body sketched, painted, and made art and jewelry. My body designs, builds, casts, and solders. My body sings, and twerks, and twirls. My body nurtures and holds onto loved ones. My body is sensual and curvy. My body knows, shows, and makes love. My body bruises easily, much like my feelings. My body has been objectified and abused, misjudged and mistreated. My body suffered health crises and has tolerated pain. My body harbored the enemy and allowed rapid multiplications of cellular mutations. My body was assaulted with “millions of malignant microcalcifications.” My body is rude AF. My body had its own Chapter 11— reorganization suit, or [birthday]suit to be reorganized . . . ? My body is over this chapter and onto the next one.

My body bore three human beings, it produced exact amounts of nutrients and proteins, often exercising its extraordinary ability to regulate my babies’ bodily temperatures once placed at my breast. My body designed and manufactured bespoke milk. My body was a milk farm. Call me, “Bessie.” My team of doctors encouraged me to pump as much milk as I could for our little 33-weeker, until I started chemotherapy. My body and I had two and a half weeks. My body was hooked up to flanges and hoses with the powerful suction of a hospital-grade pump. I was focused with unbreakable determination to give our baby all I could. My body hated that pump and its cords and its “whoosh WHEEESH whoosh” sounds. Eventually, the sing-song suction started to take on phrases to taunt me. During that short period of time, my body produced over 100 ounces of milk daily. That combined with what my freezer already had; Zuri was five months old before we had to introduce formula. I like to think of it as a “parting gift”—my body’s final offering before both breasts were scheduled to be dishonorably discharged.

My body has painful joints, requiring plentiful joints. My body has muscle memory, muscle atrophy, and muscle spasms. My body is defiant, rebellious. My body was forced into menopause by way of surgery. Two less breasts, two less ovaries, two less tubes, two less fucks… My body is fatigued, sore, and tired. My body had PowerPort surgeries, the ablation of both breasts, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, DIEP reconstruction, lymph node transfer, blood transfusions, and several more revision operations. My body has restrictions for movements and actions, my “List of Nevers,” forever. My body is adorned with freckles and stories, posed as scars. My body has bone pain and osteoporosis. My body has lymphedema and a limited range of mobility in my left arm. My body undergoes a density scan every two years, in addition to mammograms, MRIs, and CTs, yearly.

My body has been through some shit and it’s still standing (although no longer for extended periods of time). My body consumes three handfuls of pills each day to maintain itself. My body deserves praise for surviving chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and surgeries. But I still tend to fall victim to my own body-shaming—surface and superficial annoyances with my appearance. Meaningless shit . . . my post-cancer body looks good, all things considered, but that’s trivial. I know my body merits a higher level of respect and tribute. My body is NED, after all. My soul has been battered and my psyche was bludgeoned. Some days I’m comfortable in my skin and loving my imperfections, while other times I barely recognize this new shape in the mirror. That mindfuckery is always playing with me.

I long for the days when my body could run, dance, tumble, swim, sit, sleep, hold my children, walk my dog, clean my home, or garden without feeling the physical pain that inevitably follows—without knowing that all activities involve a transaction. My body must decide if the thing that should be done really must be done. There is always a trade-off: the product being any one task, a’ la carte, and the commerce is hours spent laid-up, alone in the recuperation chambers where my rented electric-lift recliner resides. Simple duties have become fatigue-inducing chores. I am still attempting to regain my endurance and stamina by gently retraining my muscles through my yoga practice, learned stretches from a physical therapist specializing in lymphedema, light housework, and short walks. My body and all its experiences continues to reshape and contour the edges of my soul. My body is nonpermanent housing … transient anatomy and the habitat for my spirit. My essence is still in there—any attempts to dim my shine are not welcomed. My bodyodyodyodyodyodyody may be bruised, but it is not broken.

This article was featured in the 2022 Body issue of Elephants and Tea Magazine! Click here to read our magazine issues.

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