#215 About Those Bracelets Tho....
I am married to a fairly modest man. Raised by a Southern Baptist Minister father and an equally religious mother, modesty and humility are important personal traits. You’ll never find my husband, Greg, donning expensive designer clothes (unless I buy them), no matter how many compliments he receives. He just doesn’t see the value. I once found him doing yard work in a pair of awesome Prada loafers I gave him for Christmas! To him, it was just another pair of black shoes. Hmmmmm. Something is seriously wrong with this man.
He wins awards for outstanding performance at work and he may or may not tell me. The boasting type he is not. When his mother passed away I think I told more people than he did. And, he waited as long as possible to let our friends and family know that I had breast cancer. So, yes, he holds things pretty close to the vest.
We’re both from Texas. Well, he’s from Texas. I just sort of went to college there (a story for another day). The thing is, most people I know from Texas are neither modest nor humble. They lead big, public lives. It’s not so much that they are ostentatious, it’s just that they enjoy living out loud and letting everyone else see. I don’t mean that pejoratively. When I went to school in Texas, my roommate drove a new convertible Cadillac Baritz. She was 19. I’ll never forget that car. I had never seen one before up close—a new car.
Greg has referred to this need to buy-and-boast as “Conspicuous Consumption.” It’s a clever term. He and I have had more than one discussion about my perceived conspicuous consumption. I say “perceived” because we don’t agree. I think I’m sharing.
Humility wasn’t really taught in my household. Bragging never came into the picture. When you’re poor and Black, what are you going to brag about? Being poor and Black? I think not.
Back to Greg. Given his stance on humility and modesty, you can imagine his reaction when I started showing up with new, sparklingly bracelets on my wrist. Yep, one by one, they were stacking up—and he began shaking his head (not necessarily in approval). Today, there are 11—all on one wrist—and these things are heavy! Once I asked my doctor what I should do to lose weight. He said “take off those bracelets.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve made deals and trade-offs with myself as incentive. When I run on the treadmill I like to watch movies. If I don’t finish the movie, I won’t watch the rest of it until I’m back on the treadmill. That was my commitment to myself—no treadmill, no movie. When our girls were little and I travelled for work, I hated being away from them. I made a deal with myself. At the end of the trip I would buy a pair of shoes. At the beginning of the trip it gave me something to look forward to. At the end, it signaled that I would soon be home.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I made a deal with myself. For every milestone I faced with strength and courage, I would buy a new bracelet. If my treatment went according to plan and I showed a bit of restraint, I would have about five or six bracelets when all was said and done. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes! After all, my mental state was at stake.
Well, here’s how that played out for me:
- Cancer Diagnosis, February 2017: Love Bracelet
- Double Mastectomy: Love Bracelet and a Bangle (one for each missing breast)
- Necrotic Skin Removal surgery on my healthy breast (complication from BMX): Bangle
- Start of Chemotherapy: Love Bracelet
- Last Chemo Session: Love Bracelet
- Last Radiation Session: Bangle
- Reconstruction (the end): This bracelet was to celebrate that it was finally over. Love Bracelet
Now come the complications…
- Breast Explosion, followed by emergency surgery: Love Bracelet
- Corrective Surgery as a result of Breast Explosion: Love Bracelet
- Second Reconstruction November 2018: Love Bracelet
I wear these bracelets everyday, all day. I don’t take them off—ever. I sleep in them, I shower in them, I exercise in them, I go through the special line at airport security for them. That is, I did until the day my acupuncturist said that they were messing with my Meridian System and Energy Flows (Chi). He said I should take them off every night and only wear them occasionally. Occasionally? Almost all of these bracelets have to be screwed on in two places (and unscrewed)—this can take a good bit of time. He didn’t care. It was all about Meridians and Chi for Dr. Tuan. So we agreed that for one month, every night I would take them off and each morning I would painstakingly screw them back on again. If I didn’t feel better in a month, I could wear them as long and often as my heart desired, he said. Greg thought I was crazy to do the on-off thing. People who saw me putting them on (I usually put them on while my computer is booting up or other opportune times) wondered aloud if it was worth it and suggested it wasn’t. It’s just jewelry after all. To them, it is conspicuous consumption on steroids.
It hasn’t been a month yet, but I continue with the evening and morning ritual. When I look down at my overly-weighted arm, it’s a reminder of what I’ve been through and what I’ve overcome. What I’ve conquered, and who I am today as a result.
For me, it’s not conspicuous consumption at all. It’s Conspicuous Courage!
I’ll continue to wear my bracelets, and I’ll smile at people who wonder why I wear so many. I’ll smile at people who judge or think I’m being ostentatious and I’ll smile at them as they shake their heads in disapproval. They have no idea what I’ve been through and how I earned those bracelets. They don’t think about the fact that everyone has a story. While they are judging me for something they don’t understand, I’ll smile, and revel, in the fact that I’m brave enough to be conspicuously courageous.
Everyone, has a story. This is mine…and it’s a doozy.
Be courageous my friends,
P.S. I started writing this post on my way to Houston, Texas so my MD Anderson surgeon Dr. Mark Schaverien (awesome surgeon), miracle worker) could revise my re-reconstructed breasts. Deal or no deal, I can’t bear (or fit) another bracelet. I’ve proven my point to myself. So my new deal is that instead of buying a bracelet, I’ll donate the money to my favorite charities. I’ll revel in the fact that I’m helping them live out their story.
Karen P. Irvin
I LOVE THIS story. You’ve ALWAYS been my hero. I adore you, Greg and your fabulous daughters! XO
Hope all goes well and this is the last, last, for sure last surgery! Love you, Kelly
And not just any old love Cartier bracelet(s) as can be seen in the picture. You are the most resilient person I know and I admire everything you represent because it is truly a gift from our Heavenly Father!