I touch every part of my body in the shower. I run my hands up my arms and over shoulders, down my breasts and ribcage and belly, my back and buttocks and legs.
I note how each portion of my body feels beneath my fingertips.
I do this because when I look at my whole self in the mirror, I cannot see changes. It is only when I look at a piece, a part, catch an accidental glimpse that I see clearly how my body is different. And it's disconcerting to see myself broken into pieces that are so different from their place in the whole.
Perhaps if I can feel the changes first, I will be able to see them in the whole. Perhaps if I can feel how my body has changed, it won't be so frightening to see the differences in the parts.
As I run my hands over my shoulders, I begin to panic. It is the first time I have felt the spine of my scapula. It is distinct and I can feel how the head of my humorous rolls beneath my acromion. "It's okay. This is normal," I say out loud to try and calm myself.
I pause in my tactile examination. I turn my back to the spray and breathe as it pounds against my back in a soothing rhythm.
That isn't quite right. Normal is not a good term. It is too subjective. I take a deep breath and try again. "It's okay. This is healthy."
I take another deep breath and continue my shower, noting the increased definition in my arms, how much smaller my breasts are, how much less belly I have to lift to wash beneath as I look forward to a time when I won't have to lift it at all, how my skin now droops through my abdomen and my belly button seems to have almost disappeared beneath the loose and sagging skin, the bow of my ilium, how my thighs are smaller and how distinctly I can feel my greater trochanter, the boniness of my patella; I note the divot between my superior ulnar process and my pisiform as I soap up and rinse off.
I wrap a towel around me and head upstairs, feeling how my hamstrings move beneath my hands.
Once in my room, I wrap my hair in a second towel.
Pausing in my routine, I head to the bathroom to fill my glass with water; I catch my reflection in the mirror above the sink. In the early morning, with the eastern sun filling the room from behind me, for the first time in my life, my cheekbones are visible without the aid of fishy kisses. "It's okay," I say out loud. "This is healthy." Then, to reinforce the message, I smile at myself.
The apples of my cheek stand out in stark contrast to the sharp distinction of my cheekbones when I smile. Immediately, tears spring to my eyes and begin running down my cheeks.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath, no longer smiling. "It's okay," I say, taking a deep breath, holding it, releasing it. "This is healthy. I am safe."
I continue to breathe.