Un-Broken: An Homage to Kintsugi

Just because I am broken, doesn’t mean I am not useful. 

It was June 2018 when I first knew something was wrong. On a flight home from Prague after teaching a study abroad course, I was unable to urinate normally. In the tiny airplane bathroom, the interruption was as abrupt as a bowling ball dropped on a running garden hose. A couple weeks later I was in the emergency room. An ultrasound showed my bladder had grown to more than twice the size of any adult bladder filled to capacity. The tumor they found, which took an estimated year to grow in my uterus, was the bowling ball I had envisioned. I underwent a radical hysterectomy. Then, recovering at home, my husband and I got the call. My best friend played with our kids upstairs and we went into our office where we got the most reliable cell phone reception. Over speaker phone, we were given the diagnosis: uterine leiomyosarcoma cancer (uLMS), stage 1B with a 36% chance of recurrence in the next three years.

I met Todd Frahm in graduate school in 1999. I had a crush on Todd, but it was love at first sight with Rick, Todd’s sweet black and brown mutt who was wiser than the two of us glued together. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of eight years. I learned Todd’s decision to pursue an MFA had caused him to break off an engagement. When he had to go out of town, I dog sat for Rick – and I never really left. Twenty-one years and two kids later, we now live and make art in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. He sculpts full-time and I teach at Warren Wilson College, an institution that has enthusiastically supported my art habit. We live in a house that art built. 

The scar on my belly, left by nineteen staples, was fertile ground for a new body of work. Cleaning my new scar as it healed, feeling each staple being removed, marveling at how some of the raised dark skin was numb in places and had sensation in others… These ministrations conjured all the scars of my life, the ones on my body, and the others.