“Mom, do you like being a zebra?” asks my 4-year old.
“What, Jada? What do you mean?” I asked, wondering if I was hearing her correctly.
“You know, now that you have those black stripes on your boobies, you kind of look like a zebra.”
I showed them. I showed my children my scars, the scars that reduced my risk from nearly 90% to 1% of breast cancer. They have been asking to see my scars, and they are way less freaked out about it than I am. They watched my friend Ligaya change my drain dressings, gazed at the open wound in my side after the drains were removed, and marveled at the blood that collected in my JP drains.
They were probably ready much sooner than I was.
So, we sat down and talked, again, about why I had the surgery, what cancer was, and what my breasts looked like under my bandages. My kids already knew it all. They’ve been hearing the answers for almost a year now. They are the original Team Mb4M. My kids know all about cancer. And, even before my surgery, they had seen both Mary and Grace’s JP drains, mastectomy bandages, and heard about implants. They sat next to both of my sisters when they were recovering from mastectomies.
As I opened my shirt, I expected shock, horror, or shrieks of “ewww!!! that’s so grossss!!!”. But, even my own children continue to surprise me with what they can tolerate.
“Oh, they look like stripes!” said Jada.
“Oh, they are black,” said Joli casually.
That’s it? No gasps of horror? No squeals of disgust or covering their eyes with their hands? No, “Mommy! Mommy! Cover it up!”?
No. They just treated these scars like they were Me. Their Mom. A woman who — no matter what I look like — will still kiss them goodnight, brush their hair, and love them unconditionally. I have always taught my kids to treat others with kindness and respect, no matter what other people look like: skin color, physical build or conditions, disabilities, etc.
And, now, they have given me the greatest gift. They have seen me for who I am on the inside. Their Mom. No matter what my body looks like, no matter how difficult it is for me to accept my own appearance and my own body, my children love me and accept me just for who I am.
I learned this about zebras:
ZEBRA – teaches us the beauty in individuality. The zebra’s distinctive stripes serves as a protective camouflage against predators, who are often unable to pick an individual out from the herd. For herd members, the stripe patterns, unique to each zebra, have the opposite effect of helping to identify individual zebras. This power animal thus helps us to both maintain our individuality in group settings and helps us to be supportive members of our communities. A third spiritual meaning for the stripes has to do with the integration of opposites, thus enabling us to see a deeper truth.
So, yes, Jada. Mommy likes being a Zebra.
Peace, love, and embracing my stripes,