Belonging

As I wrote in my last post, this week marks the one year anniversary of my MBC diagnosis and the breaking of my leg. I have an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon who gave me the bad news and it was not his finest moment. He was definitely out of his element and I wish it had been my oncologist who delivered the news. Well, if I’m wishing, I should shoot for the stars and wish for different news all together, eh?

I mentioned documenting this anniversary on Instagram but with my fraught relationship with social media, I’ve decided against it. One thing that is happening this week is that I am having an improv practice with my team for the first time in almost three years. I have not done improv since I was first diagnosed. Improv was something I started as a lark. One of my favorite things in the world is making someone laugh. Stand up never appealed to me because of the solo nature of it but improv sounded like something I could. I signed up for my first class in 2015 and started taking classes pretty consistently for the following three years. There is a definitely a cult-like sensibility to improv that drew me in.

In 2017, Danielle, Sara, and I decided to form our own three person team. We dubbed ourselves the Gin Girls, as a nod to the copious amount of gin and tonics that led to the decision but also because Gin Girls sounds like a bunch of broads who drink their gin and don’t give a fuck. Our tagline said we had fun and supported the heck out of each other and that’s something we did, both on and off stage. Danielle and Sara were with me for my very first chemo treatment, holding my hand, singing rap songs, and fetching me crackers.

I have had a lot of female friends over the years — I went to an all-girls high school, I was in a sorority in college — heck, I’ve been a bridesmaid nine times, which I think reflects pretty well on my skills as a gal pal. But that does mean that I have always felt I belonged. And belonging is a tricky concept. Especially as we age and people start form their own circles of spouses and children.

When my group of college sorority sisters, all of whom are married, have children, and live primarily in the South, found out about my diagnosis last year, they put together a video of each of them sending me well wishes. The intent to do something nice was there but it did not land well with me. I was in the hospital, having just received a grim diagnosis, unable to get out of bed and peeing through a catheter. Something about their smiles and their perfect kitchen backdrops pained me to the point where I watched it once, burst into tears, and then deleted it. I struggled to explain to one of my friends why I didn’t love it and I probably should have just faked a response. But I was dealing with so much at the time, I ended up telling her it bothered me. She understood because she happens to be amazing like that. I ended up pushing most of those women away for reasons that are not their fault. What I’m now living with, and what it means for my future, makes it difficult to see others live a life I’ll never have.

All of this to say, is that I thought I belonged with those women. They were the friends I made in college, the ones that came out of allegedly the best years of my life. I stood by many of them when they married their husbands, I shopped their baby registries. I thought that’s where I belonged, on the outskirts of that group, playing a supportive role but never the star. I put myself there and it has taken a long time (and a shit ton of therapy sessions) for me to realize that.

As I’ve grown up and matured (sort of), I have become more confident and comfortable with myself. And funnily enough, one of the places I feel most confident and comfortable is on stage. Making things up with Sara and Danielle. So perhaps it is actually perfect that I’m spending this one year anniversary of my life changing again with the two of them. We will do silly warm-ups, play over the top characters, Danielle will try and make out with one, if not both, of us. I am lucky that I found a place where I belong because we all need that connection, that reassurance, that bond, no matter what we deal with.

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Michelle T

Sometimes funny lawyer-writer person battling breast cancer in NYC