On July 4, 1998, a week or so following my breast cancer surgery, I got the news from my doctor that, according to the pathology report and multiple scan results, my body showed no further sign of disease. Thereafter I’ve considered July 4 my personal Independence from Cancer Day.
Each year on this date I stop and reflect. I feel grateful. I feel relieved. I feel lucky.
But I also feel something else.
I feel ripped off.
With all the technological hoo haa my body has been put through, I should damned well have developed some super powers by now.
Peter Parker gets bit by ONE teensy radioactive spider and turns in to freakin’ spiderman.
Meanwhile, I’ve been injected with chemicals that light my internal organs up like Christmas trees, shoved inside gazillion-dollar pieces of machinery, and bombarded with every type radio, light and ultrasound wave known to science.
I have had so many radioactive isotopes injected into my body that my pee glows in the dark. I can rent myself out as a combination reading lamp/patio heater/bug zapper.
But do I have heightened senses? Incredible strength? Can I climb the side of my garage or shoot a web out of my butt? Do my spidey-senses so much as tingle?
All those waves, all those isotopes, all those chemical dye injections, and I got buttkiss.
I’m not asking to become IronWoman or SuperRedhead or SpiderGirl.
I don’t need the dexterity to scale a skyscraper. Getting something off the top shelf of my closet without falling off the stepstool would be fine.
I don’t need xray vision. At this point I’d settle for being able to read a menu in a restaurant without my cheaters. Or to be able to find my cheaters in the first place.
I don’t need to be able to run faster than a speeding bullet or have catlike agility. It would make me happy to get to and from the mailbox in a reasonable amount of time and not bang my shin on the side of the bed every morning.
I don’t need the ability to bend steel with my bare hands. I’d consider it a major coup to break into a bag of potato chips. And would it be too freakin’ much to ask to be able to open a CD case or “twist off top” bottle without assistance?
I’m not looking for genius-level mental ability. Remembering where I put my car keys on any given day would be a good start. Not having to go back into the house three times after I’ve already locked the door because I’ve forgotten sunglasses, cell phone and purse would be nice. Balancing my checkbook – just once – would be enough.
I don’t have to have six-pack abs or look good in a neon superhero getup. Not needing an iron foundation garment to keep from spilling out over the top of my jeans will suffice. I suppose the ability to blind people with my lily-white legs in summertime is something, but unless I can distinguish between blinding the Good and blinding the Evil, it’s of limited value.
I'm not giving up; there is still hope that I will one day morph in to some semblance of a super heroine.
Until then, I do admit that I haven’t gotten COMPLETELY shortchanged by cancer. It has had its benefits.
I can fearlessly whip off my shirt and allow anyone who shows me a medical credential to cop a feel without embarrassment. I’ll proudly show my scars to anybody.
I’ve got full color images (some of them in 3-D) of all my internal organs. It beats ‘what I did on my vacation’ photo albums every time and makes quite the coffee table book to bring out at parties.
My man-made side (which I call the Bionic Boob) is permanently perky and sag-proof. It stands proudly against the ravages of time and gravity. While it’s not resilient enough to, say, deflect a bullet, it will serve as a floatation device should the airplane I’m on have to ditch in the ocean. I’m sure that my innate radioactivity can also be used as a locator beacon to guide rescue craft to my location.
I can't be counted upon to save you if the bus we're riding ends up teetering helplessly on the edge of a cliff or if the elevator we're in suffers a malfunction and plummets 50 stories. But if we ever end up traveling on the same trans-atlantic flight, you might wanna forego sitting beside the emergency exit and just take the seat next to me.