I walk into the radiation room day after day, slipping behind the divider to remove my shoes and pants without being told. The towel they give me to cover myself seems large enough most days, when all of the technicians are women. But today, a man has come to get me, has walked me to the room, has told me that his wife’s name also is Charity.
Today, the towel seems very small as I walk out from behind the curtain.
The radiation table already is covered with the plastic form of my body that I climb into each day. The large bean bag with the air sucked out of it feels just like me as I lay down and try to get comfortable in myself. The form feels just like me, but it also feels awkward.
The day they created the form, I must have been lying there crooked, because the techs always have to rotate me a little to get my position just right. And the crease that digs into the back of my head each time I lay down is a constant reminder that I’ve never really been that comfortable in my own skin.
When I am settled, the large cylinder of the RapidArc machine passes over me, and I see the length of my body reflected in the glass. My face, nervous, then my hands folded uncomfortably over my chest. I see my abdomen, with its scars and ink markings; then my legs, where the machine comes to a rest. Feeling the shape of myself below me, and seeing the image of myself above me, I am very aware that I am a person in a body.
Of all the things to fight for, I never thought I would be lying in a hospital fighting for my body.
I’ve never liked my body much, if you must know. When I was in high school, I participated in sports because my friends did, not because I had the body for it. It was always my mind, my personality, even my spirit that other people noticed. In the senior year book, I wasn’t voted most good looking or most athletic. I was voted most studious, most friendly, most likely to succeed.
Like many women I know, I have tried to change my body over the years. I’ve tried to make it smaller, tighter, browner, smoother.
When I was 31, I felt betrayed by my body, my own immune system paralyzing me.
At times, I’ve even blamed my body for my singleness.
But watching my sloppy, scarred body pass over me in the image of the machine, suddenly I felt a great affection for this tent I’ve been living in.
Suddenly, my body felt like it was worth fighting for.
Today, I received good news that my CA125 level – a tumor marker indicating the presence of cancer – is back to the negative range after just the surgery as we had hoped. The radiation will be precautionary, to ensure there are no rogue cells remaining. I am so thankful to Jesus for this news, especially since the side effects of radiation (fatigue, mild nausea) are beginning to take effect.