Monday, April 18, 2022. I started with Johnny Was. I first discovered this luxury brand of clothing and accessories during a work trip to Atlanta, GA in January 2019. The boho-chic fashion line is known for their signature scarves and other fine fashion pieces made from quality materials. I selected a blouse, T-shirt - the most expensive T-shirt I’d ever purchased - and two scarves. (I later went back and purchased another 3 scarves after my first two had arrived because I loved them so much.)
Next, I scrolled through my favorite retailers and brands, and carefully read the fabric descriptions of every piece before adding to my shopping cart and checking out. I realized there was risk in purchasing clothes I couldn’t try on first, but I had asked Miah if he would help me ship back anything that didn’t fit. Miah is a professional return-shopper. I mean that in the nicest way. He’s picky and selective and doesn’t like to keep what he isn’t going to use. He promised to help me re-package and return-ship anything I didn’t like after I'd received it.
By the end of the day, I had placed several orders. It felt good to focus on something other than cancer. I imagined my closet filling up with beautiful new patterns and fabrics, replacing my old, worn, tops and sweaters. I wanted to be so enamored by my new wardrobe I wouldn’t even care that my body looked different.
Tuesday, April 19, 2022. I decided I needed new shoes as well, so I went to my favorite shoe brand, L'Artiste, by Spring Step. I purchased a pair of sandals, three pairs of ankle boots, and a scarf. My order came with a free gift - an umbrella.
Then I discovered Natural Life and picked out a few home décor items along with some additional clothing and jewelry. This got me thinking about my music studio/office, and I meandered over to Etsy to pick out a gold foil deck of custom tarot cards and some tapestries to use for The Music Tarot.
I was really on a roll and wanted to try some new makeup too. Why not? So, I visited my preferred retailer and ordered some new eye shadow and lipstick, while also stocking up on staple items like foundation, powder, and mascara.
Every item I purchased made me feel a little happier. I bought whatever I was drawn to and paid no mind to what others might think of me. I had spent years toning down my appearance, afraid to buy the bohemian-style clothing that best suited my personality, fearing criticism from my peers and colleagues. But now I was done with that thinking. I’d stared into the eyes of cancer and faced the possibility of death. I was going to wear the clothes I most desired. I was going to style my hair with 80s hair crimps and glitter clip-in extensions if I wanted to. I was going to decorate my house with colorful accessories and tapestries and smile at every single one of my possessions I had worked so hard to accumulate.
“It's funny how a woman has to almost die to live how she wants.” – author, Glennon Doyle
I heard this quote while listening to Glennon’s podcast, We Can Do Hard Things. It really struck me. I wasn’t just shopping to distract myself from the horrors of going through cancer. I was finally taking steps to unapologetically embrace who I was and truly be myself. I could no longer hide behind my insecurities. I had lost all sense of guaranteed decades of life. I didn't know how much time I had left to eventually do and enjoy the things I wanted. I wasn’t going to sit back, hiding my talents, wearing gray slacks and a solid white blouse ever again.
Wednesday, April 20, 2022. My left drain output had been less than 30 mL daily since Monday, so I called the breast center and let them know I was on my way over to see a nurse. Miah drove carefully, avoiding as many bumps as he could. After checking in, we were quickly called back to the exam room. The nurse checked my incisions and said everything looked excellent. Then she reviewed my drain output worksheet, which Miah had been filling out twice a day. “I can remove the left drain today, but the right one has to stay in yet,” she said.
The right drain output was only 5 mL above the required amount for drain removal. It had been 35 mL on Monday and Tuesday. I was hoping they would let it slide, since the left one was ready to be removed.
“I know, it sucks,” she told me, “But you’ll feel better after having at least one drain removed.”
I became slightly nervous about the drain extraction process and asked her to describe it. “Basically, people say it feels weird,” she explained. There were no other descriptors for it.
She cut and removed the stitch holding the drain in place, asked me to inhale a deep breath, and then said, “Ok, exhale.” As I did, she pulled the drain from my chest.
Miah gasped, “Oh my god, I totally saw that moving through your skin! That was crazy!”
The nurse was right, it did feel weird. It didn’t hurt and the weirdness lasted only a fleeting second or two. I was disappointed to leave with the right drain still in place, but at least I did feel slightly less restricted.
When we got home, Mom-In-Law R was waiting for us. She had a gift to give me from Sister-In-Law J and wanted to check in on me/us. We sat in the living room and drank coffee as we caught her up on how we were feeling about everything. I told her about my shopping spree, and she beamed with joy. “That’s exactly what you need to do,” she nodded in approval. Mom-In-Law R has a hippie-soul, just like me, and she also loves to buy new things. But unlike me, she has been showing her colorful tattoos and wearing her neon nail polish for decades already, without a care in the world about what others think of her. I was glad to have such a great role model now that I was changing my own tune.
I asked her to drive me to my nail salon because it was on her way back home. This was a convenient arrangement. I'd booked an early afternoon appointment and didn’t want Miah to have to drop me off and pick me up. I had gone a full week without nail polish, and I couldn’t take it any longer.
At the salon, I got both a pedicure and a manicure. I told the nail technician I was sore because I’d just had surgery, but I didn’t go into detail about what I’d had done. I kept my right drain hidden. Afterward, I called Miah, and waited for him to pick me up. I felt normal again to have my polished toes and colorful hands back.
I had a new appreciation for the expression retail therapy. I had never shopped this hard before. I was grateful for Thin-Gorgeous-Extremely-Successful S, for having suggested I do something like this. I was astounded by Miah’s generosity and unlimited budget - though I did cut myself off at a certain point. I am the controller of our finances, so I knew the amount I was most comfortable spending.
As the weeks ahead unfolded, my items arrived, one by one. I ended up making a spreadsheet to keep track of all my purchases (there were really that many!). Surprisingly, everything fit except for one pair of shoes. I took this as a sign I was on the right track. My body would heal, and I would rest, but my soul was delighted and I was blessed.
End of 15 - Shopping Hard