For example, last week, when I got measured up for my upcoming radiation and I came out looking like the marked up "Before" picture of a breast augmentation patient crossed with one of those bodies on the reference charts for acupuncture points and meridian lines (circles, crosses, dots, lines - it was like someone played a really messy Naughts and Crosses on my torso). After I left my measurements appointment, a cursory scrub of all the marks failed to get much off, so I decided not to bother with the rest of them and proudly showed them all off when I went swimming at the public pool. I say proudly, but it was more like, I just didn't care. I desperately needed exercise and I can't really run cos I can't do boob bounce, plus I need to strengthen my surgery arm where they took the nodes out, so I went swimming for the first time since the operation.
Now, I live pretty much equidistant between two pretty rocking pools: MSAC (Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre) in Albert Park, and MAC (Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre), and sometimes I can sit in a quandary at home for an hour in my bathers before finally deciding WHICH Olympic Size pool to swim my cursory laps in, but if I'm honest, I usually tend towards MAC. Because MSAC is very athletic with many athletic clientele who have very athletic bodies. And if they're not athletic then they're "cool" people wearing cool bathers and doing cool things like riding that simulated wave surfing machine. Also, they have actual athletes training for actual Olympics and stuff. And while I sometimes enjoy that atmosphere because it reminds me that I should be training hard, most times, I prefer to swim in a pool where the staff feel it is necessary to put up safety signs that say, "Underwear is not Swimwear."
So more often than not, I choose to swim at MAC.
And the day that I got measured and marked up in all different coloured permanent markers for my upcoming radiation treatment is the day I went swimming at MAC.
The clientele at MAC are great. They're the kind of older Chinese and Vietnamese women who I fell in love with in Vietnam - the ones who see you as a pure source of live entertainment and express their joy at your ineptitude. I love this so much. There is no pretence there - they can and will openly laugh at you and your funny white ginger body. One day at MAC, a woman stopped to watch me when I absentmindedly and accidentally (I SWEAR IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!) walked into the Men's change room. She didn't bother calling out to stop me, but instead just said to herself, "oh this is gonna be good" and stayed to watch the show. Obviously I ran out screaming, because burned into my retinas was the everlasting image of a very surprised very elderly Chinese man, who had elected to wear neither underwear nor swimwear (I can't work out whether he was ignoring or following the signs). So I know that this woman stayed to watch the show because I heard the sound of cackling ringing off the tiles out the front - she had gathered her friends around the entrance of the men's change room so that they could all watch me run out screaming, and their laughter (made more exaggerated by all the fingers pointed in my direction) infected me with their joy of my own stupidity.
So I swam at MAC. I think it was a deliberate choice. I mean, partly it was because I felt that it was more acceptable for me to expose my markings in a more community atmosphere that celebrated difference instead of perfect athletic bodies, but I think it might have been something else. Perhaps I thought that maybe the women there might laugh at all my crazy markings or at least be bold and ask me about them. And if they laughed, they could infect me too - cos I was laughing and have been laughing since the diagnosis, but sometimes making myself laugh can be tiring. It's a survival technique, this making myself laugh about Cancer thing, but sometimes, I just want someone else to take over the job for me. Everyone's so serious about it all the time. I can't fathom why. I'm having a ball.
But for the first time, my funny white ginger body didn't tickle the women in the MAC change room. They usually make fun of me and my wobbly bits, but that day, they saw the red circles highlighting prominent freckles that will be used to position my body against the radiation machine, the black crosses that marked out my new sternum tattoos that will line me up correctly, and the blue lines that emboldened my scars to indicate where to zap, and the women in the MAC change room averted their eyes and refused to laugh at me.
So I just got on with business.
I stretched my cap over my hair.
I placed my earplugs in my ears.
I suctioned my goggles onto my face.
And I prepared myself to swim TWO WHOLE KILOMETRES!
I dived in.
I only swam 600 metres.
And I laughed at myself.