I remember the day my hair started falling out. I finished an oncology appointment and was standing outside waiting for my ride. I had already buzzed my hair short in preparation. It had taken me several looks in the mirror to grow accustomed to my face without a full head of hair. I knew it would fall out. But I wasn’t prepared for the shock of holding clumps in my hand. I stood over the trash can, and ran my fingers over my scalp. I watched the hair drift downward and disappear. I was in a new world. I was neither myself from before nor someone completely new. I was, as my daughter called me, “old mommy/new mommy.”
During breast cancer, I learned in stark relief that life isn’t a set of binaries. We don’t experience things as one or the other: healthy/sick, black/white, girl/boy, young/old, sweet/sour. Instead we live on a continuum. It does little good for me to see myself as either healthy or sick. I was both. I still am. I suffer from chronic pain, depression and anxiety. Some as a result of cancer treatment, some lingering since childhood. When I see myself as either/or, I reduce my experience and the meaning within each moment of my life. So I meditate on the both/and. On light, dark, and shadow. I work on reframing my thoughts.