Archive | 10:10 PM

Day 256: the magnificient power of art :: part 1

13 Sep

The Magnificent Power of ART
Part 1: Standing Up For Your Heart

I was diagnosed with cancer days before my senior year.

When all the other kids went off to our first day of our senior year of high school to RULE THE SCHOOL, I dressed down to my naked skin and dawned a hospital gown to have my guts sliced open, lymph nodes and spleen removed, ovaries tucked under my abdominal muscle lining — all in name of an official diagnosis.

I am so old now, this procedure is considered archaic medicine.  I suppose that should make me feel good.  Maybe it does.  I still proudly wear the scar running from belly button to breast bone.

After the surgery, after finding out my prognosis, after healing my sliced abdomen and beginning to walk again, I finally showed up to school. But even then, only after my daily 6am radiation treatment —- which made me 5 minutes late to class.  Late.  Everyday.

Once I finally made it to school, I loved being in my art class.
It was one place I could create, I could paint, I could sit still and pour myself into creating something of beauty.

Especially since so much had changed in my life, and become ugly and dark, so sudden, so fast.  I had been running up and down the court playing varsity basketball just a month before, but, now, I was trying not to throw up in the halls between classes, trying to hide my skin turning purple as it burnt from the inside out, trying to cover my stomach that growled so loud it reverberated off the classroom walls.

In fact, my First Period Teacher couldn’t stomach it.
He was so upset that I interrupted class every morning, coming in late from the hospital, and then, again, during reading hour when we were all required to be engrossed in the pressing headlines of the day — the exact moment my stomach decided to engage in movements fit for a concerto.

He had enough.  He wanted no more interruptions.  I was too distracting.
He asked me to change to his afternoon class.

Which would have been fine, if it didn’t happen to be the same exact time as MY ART CLASS.  The only art class my schedule would allow given other class requirements.

I felt broken.
It wasn’t because of the cancer diagnosis, or the spleenectomy, or having to walk away from the basketball team, or miss the first day of my senior year, or deal with the fact that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer right after I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, or my hair falling out every night filling my bathroom garbage can, OR the new zipper my once rock solid, newly emaciated abs permanently displayed.

Losing my art class represented everything else I had lost.
Most of all, my control over being normal.

And, that’s when I did something I had never done before.
I didn’t give in: to the established set of guidelines, the advice of my teachers, the betterment of the other students.

I listened to my heart and I refused to switch classes.

So what if I arrive late to class everyday?
So what if my stomach growls so loud the room next door can hear it?
So what if all the other kids in class have to deal with the fact that I HAVE CANCER.

And, you know what happened?
They listened.  They didn’t necessarily agree, but, they let me stay put so I could keep my art class.  More than anything else, it allowed me to keep a glimmer of hope like a promise that maybe not everything was lost.

And, I promise you this:
Sometimes, the heart really does know what’s best.

Tomorrow, I will share Part II of The Magnificent Power of ART.
Hint: it involves this print:

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