Last week, I lost the medical bracelet I had been wearing religiously since April, when my Powerport was implanted.
The bracelet was simple – a flexible silicon band, with imprinted letters you had to look closely to make out. It was dark grey – unobtrusive and unflashy.
After the surgery to place the port, I was given the bracelet and told to carry a card in my wallet with directions about what the port was and how it could be used.
Ports are remarkable devices. Inserted through a vein in the neck, implanted in the chest, they provide a little landing pad for a special kind kind of needle. This allows chemotherapy (or immunotherapy) to be delivered directly into aorta and pumped out into the body, rather than stressing smaller blood vessels. Ports can equally be used for blood draws.
These can be a godsend for weary cancer patients. The port ensures the veins in their arms are not destroyed by the repeated sticks and toxic liquids of chemotherapy.
The port took some getting used to, but found myself mindlessly playing with it, the way one might twirl a strand of hair. I would run my fingers lightly over the bumps in its surface.
Or, more often, I would play with the bracelet.
It still feels strange not to feel it on my wrist. But I wonder if maybe it’s time to let it go.
Is this part of adjusting to the new normal?
My energy is getting better and better. I am stronger. My head is clearer. I’m even beginning to make plans about the future, mapping out wishes or goals that are months or years ahead.
That’s something that would have seemed unthinkable earlier this year.
My hair is coming in thick and dark. I’m nearly ready to lose the wig. If I’m honest, the only reason I’m wearing it now is that I still have a few long strands. I could never bring myself to cut it somehow. It felt too violent. Now it feels time to usher in the new chapter.
Someone commented to me this week that it must be nice to let my oncologist see ‘the real me’ – one whose daily activities are no longer defined by illness. I had to gently correct her: I always felt like the real me. Even when I was really struggling, or could only do a fraction of what I did before.
I am different now, but I’m still figuring out how.
I know some people’s experiences with serious illness feel like an out of body experience, or they want to put it behind them to move on as quickly as possible. I understand that impulse. I have felt it myself. But it’s when I give in to this desire that I start to lose my footing.
Stepping back into life feels a bit like putting on a coat bought winters ago, one that no longer fits quite right, and is just a bit out of style. (In fact, it is literally like that, as I’ve gradually pruned my closet.)
So much has changed that my perception of my life looks like when healthy need some serious updating.
The last time I truly felt well was before I was pregnant, over two years ago – except for a brief window of a few weeks, when I had finally recovered enough from having a baby to properly engage with life, but before I was diagnosed with cancer.
It’s incredible to remember what ‘healthy’ feels like.
The sensation is absolutely delicious. And even with the limitations I still have, I feel so strong and full of possibility.
I had no idea just how weak I was, or how much less energy I had than ‘normal’ people until this came back. It is a true delight.
But it’s also a process of discovery.
What is important to me now? What are my beliefs, my motivations, my limitations?
What does my body feel like? What do I look like? How do I present myself?
What does my life feel like in the roles I inhabit. How do I embrace and extend them. How do I experience my blessings as fully as possible?
Most people choose not to wear their powerport bracelet.
For me, it was never a question.
I loved wearing that bracelet. It felt like the marker of a secret club. Only people who had been on this cancer journey – or close to someone on it – and had been fitted with a powerport themselves would know what it was. To everyone else, it just looked like one of those rubbery inspirational bracelets that people often wear.
It made me feel safe to know that should I go into hospital suddenly and not be able to advocate for myself, this bracelet would tell the medical staff what I could not.
But it also marked me – to myself more than anyone else.
It told me I was sick. It indicated I was vulnerable. It reminded me that I carried a guest in my body in the form of that little medical device that protrudes under the skin of my chest.
There are a few places I could have lost it. I thought about calling to see if it had been found.
But part of me doesn’t want to. Carrying forward this Autumn transformation, it fell from my wrist like a leaf from a tree.
I will see if it comes back to me of its own accord. Otherwise, perhaps it is time to let it go as I grow towards new horizons.
Maybe I don’t need that bracelet anymore.