18. Cankles

18. Cankles

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident


To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow — this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.

~Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

“I hate my legs,” my wife said.

“I love your legs,” I said. “What’s wrong with them?”

“Instead of thin, sexy ankles, I’ve got cankles.”

“What in the world are cankles?”

“My ankles are so thick that my calves go straight down into my feet. I don’t have ankles, I’ve got cankles; calves and feet, but no ankles.”

I first saw Neecey more than two decades ago at a bar in Pittsburgh. A large group of runners, all members of People Who Run Downtown, had gathered to run and then have a meal. I noticed a foxy lady sitting with a couple of runners I knew. She had curly blond hair that framed her cute, petite face like a fashion photo.

The following week, a mutual runner friend introduced us before the run and after a bit of small talk, I mentioned I was a jazz and blues musician and asked Neecey if she liked blues music.

“I love the blues! It’s my favorite genre of music.”

I invited her to a concert that Saturday night, a few days later, in which some friends would be performing and she eagerly accepted and gave me her phone number. But when I called her the next day, and several times after that, I got a “phone not in service” message. She must have been too shy to say no to the date and gave me a phony number, I thought.

The following week when I saw her at the running group, I asked her about the wrong number.

“Oh my God! I can’t believe I did that. I was so nervous when you asked me out that I gave you the first six digits of my work number and the last four of my home number. Meanwhile, I was feeling really bad because you didn’t call. I thought you didn’t want to go out with me.”

To make a long story short, she gave me the correct number and we were married a year later.

In 2004 we were both devastated to learn that Neecey had breast cancer. The doctor told us she would need surgery and radiation but chances for a cure were good. That night we snuggled on the couch, both teary eyed.

“There is something we need to talk about,” she said. “The doctor said the surgery would leave me with a misshapen breast. He offered reconstructive surgery if I want it. I’ll have it if you think I should, so I won’t look like a freak to you when I’m naked. But you know how much I fear doctors, hospitals, and especially surgery.”

“During the course of our marriage, my love for you has gone much deeper than your physical charms, great as they are.”

I took Neecey’s hand in mind. “Babe, I fell in love with you and everything that makes you what you are: your soul, your spirit, your personality and your pouty way when we disagree. During the course of our marriage, my love for you has gone much deeper than your physical charms, great as they are. The important thing is to get rid of cancer. I want your body to be your body after surgery, not a remade, fabricated thing the doctors have put together. I want the woman I married, not some reconstruction project.”

The surgery and radiation were a success and five years later, Neecey was declared cancer free. She has a small incision below the nipple that, with the loss of tissue, makes the breast point downward. It has the odd but cute look of a closed eye.

This brings us back to my conversation two weeks ago with Neecey about her cankles.

“Babe, in case you’ve forgotten, you have a picture perfect runner’s body and a face I’d fight the Mongolian horde for. I’m more than willing to accept your cankles in the bargain.”

~Ray Budd

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