Last Day of Summer

Because cancer is so invasive, and because today is my last day of normal, I decided to just wear my swimsuit to the hospital today.

That may not be very Mormon of me, but they were going to take away all my clothes anyway! I would rather have something on than nothing! I did wear also my fancy swim coverup, too, so it wasn’t as scary as it sounds. But Nathan laughed as he kissed me goodbye, and maybe that was worth it.

When I finally did make it to the pool at the end of the day, I was ready for a nap. If this is my last day of normal, then this is my last day of summer. That means this is my last day of sunshine, which means that’s exactly where I need to take my nap today.


As families began to head home for dinner, I slowly walked into the water. I could not swim like usual, but I took my time wading down to the deep end. With hurting arms crossed, and a back eased of pain as the water buoyed me up, I dipped myself under water to cool off, and then slipped under the rope to the deep end.

Keeping my hands in a Namaste position, I kicked my feet like never before, treading water with only my legs moving, kicking until my body remembered I am still alive, until my body remembered I am a fighter, until my body was engaged with my spirit and was warmed up for some teamwork.

That’s when I choreographed my own interpretive dance, right there in the water.

I made myself very still, floating until I felt all the courage and peace I could find inside me.

Then I spread my arms out to the sky, thanking the sunshine, thanking Heavenly Parents, and thanking my body.

I bowed prostrate under water to my Savior, and swam back up, lifted by the spirit, feeling the thinness of the veil in water, so smooth between body and spirit.

I reached out my arms to hug my mother, then my father, then my grandparents.

Then I stood, straight and tall, and fell backwards under the water, playing baptism like my brother and I did when we were little. I baptized myself seven times, once for each sin, and then an eighth because I love the Jews, and then a ninth because I have Arab friends, too.

I was not really baptizing me, of course, so no one get worried about my religiousity gone bad.

I was just dancing, you see?

I had to make peace, you see?

And then I became me, still as could be, floating on my back in the setting sun.

And then I became invaded by cancer, taking hits and dives and splashing against imaginary monsters.

Because I am a grownup, you see?

And because I had some anger to get out.

And because you never poke a mad dog with a stick. And I didn’t! I played hard outside, and already survived my share of medical crises, and ate my vegetables. I drink wheatgrass every morning! I am not tiny, but I was healthy and strong. I didn’t pick a fight with cancer. It picked a fight with me.

And so a fight is what it’s gonna get.

I raised my arms, slowly because they hurt, and touched the scars on my head, and told them I was sorry surgery had been so brutal and might be again. I tried to find every scar, every wound, every battle already fought and apologize with deep gratitude.

I swam for just a minute with my arms only, not long enough to hurt me but long enough to remind me that pain is not the end of things.

Then I took off in an upside down butterfly, doing abdominal crunches up out of the water and then pushing back under. When my belly complained of tumors in the way, I promised to rid of them soon, but begged to enjoy these last bits of movement before it is all taken away and I am cut in pieces, now, while we are still free.

We will have months to rest, my belly and me, but today is our day to move and to play and to breathe.

I probably made tomorrow a bad pain day, but tomorrow was going to be bad anyway: and today was my last day of summer.

I swam and I circled. I did dolphins and tea parties. I swam at the top, and I swam at the bottom. I jumped and leaped and flipped. I danced like a ballerina, and I swam like an Emily.

It was in three acts, my dance.

Because I take a lot of naps.

But when I finished, and took my bow, my parents clapped for me.

Brava!, I heard, bowing again and not caring who could see, caring only who I could see.

I collapsed in my chair, too far gone, needing a nap before I could gather my things and my Self and head back home. It didn’t matter how much I could do, or had just dreamed, or had only imagined.

It only mattered that the wind began to blow, and I began to laugh.

Because I knew I’d done it.

I had danced up a storm.

You guys, it’s time to fight this thing.


Posted in Healing, Health Tagged permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Last Day of Summer — 9 Comments

  1. Emily, my heart hurts to know of your struggles. Please know that you are in my prayers and I will try to bolster up your spirit as much as I can from afar. You may not see or feel it at all times, but you are not alone. We love you. Now put on those gloves and kick cancers butt! Were counting on you! XOXO

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