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.