Barbie Doll and Missing Body Parts

Birch Bay Drive, WA, After Winter StormAFTER BREAST CANCER and mangled attempts at reconstruction, I was looking a bit like Birch Bay Drive, where I used to live, after a vicious storm took the road out. My friend Judy was a buoy during the storm, keeping my head above water. But she wasn't a lot of help when the tide went out and it was time to face the damage. No one was. And I wasn't about to take my clothes off just to show folks exactly what we're dealing with here.

Here's the truth, and trust me . . .
. . . I am throw-up-to-look-at ugly. My body is nothing Michelangelo would ever sculpt, or DaVinci paint. Lying through my teeth in front of a mirror with daily "affirmations" contrary to reality is less than helpful, a useless escape into some fantasy land I refuse to enter. Truth? I didn't recognize the mangled body I'd been left, all torn apart, disconnecting me from myself. What was this stuff neck down? Where did I go? Judy and all my other friends had no idea how to help me. But one of my doctors assured me that many women feel exactly like this.

"Look at it this way," she told me. As we age, time slowly allows us to adjust to a different body. One gray hair at a time, one more wrinkle. A pain in the hip. A kink in the knee. But when we undergo radical removal of body parts, our minds can't process the all-at-once shock. It's a defense mechanism in order to function in the horror.

"It takes women, on average, a year or more to begin feeling connected to themselves. Give yourself time," she said. "It'll happen."

And so I accepted my disconnect and trusted myself to time.

One day at breakfast in Skagway, AK, "Ken-with-the-blue-coat" started talking about when—once upon a time, a long time ago—he was in charge of showing the Red Onion strippers what he'd been learning over at the firehall. I butted in and tut-tutted:

"My-my-my, but aren't you the regular little Ken doll!"

Doug, another friend, leaned over and whispered to me something about a Barbie doll, and my friend Judy, across the table, gave me a look and burst out laughing.

Judy Mallory and Brenda Wilbee, Skagway AK"Yea, Brenda a Barbie doll, all right! Barbie with missing body parts, you mean!"

The image of a Barbie with her breasts cut off struck me so funny I guffawed. That set Judy off. Egged on, I cracked up, the guys beside us clueless as to what was so freaking hilarious. "Bet you never thought you'd see the day," wheezed Judy, "when you'd laugh about this!"

"No I did not! Ha-ha!" I gave her a high five. Another high-five.

And just like that, I'd found my way through the rubble to the other side. My head connected to my body.

Devastation yes, but with friends, finally, a way through the devastating rubble.