Cancer is a challenge. What those challenges are varied for each person and caregiver(s).
Inevitably, once a conversation about surgery (mastectomy) or chemotherapy emerge, the changes to your own physical person are an affront to who exactly you are. These realities are profound and inescapable.
They’re also a chance for a valuable introspection.
To really whittle down what matters. It’s awfully simple.
What matters: living.
Why: people. The people who I can’t bear to leave.
I’m going to have wine around my living room table with my daughters.
I’m going to attend many more family Thanksgivings and Christmases.
I’m going to teach many more students and coach many more athletes.
I’m going to sit on the couch and watch Netflix with my husband for many years to come.
So, when that is what matters, vanity is tossed aside quickly, and for me, with a sense of defiance and irreverence as a clear message to cancer.
Cancer won’t take what matters the very most to me.
But, it will take some parts of me both temporarily and permanently.
In our Western culture, and due to my socioeconomic status, I’ve been able to be concerned about my personal appearance.
Now, for those of you who know me, I’m a function over form person, most of the time.
Dry shampoo works for me about every other day.
I’d say that I’m happy to blend in, with my own approach to fashion, but definitely don’t want to stand out.
So, why am I undressing vanity?
We all have some level of vanity, it’s unavoidable.
We should love ourselves. Deeply.
What we see in the mirror every day, others do as well.
So, I’m looking at physical vanity.
I can get self-absorbed in an occasional pimple, the wave in my hair that I hate on the edges, or the shirts that aren’t long enough for my seriously elongated torso.
I don’t think that I have excessive self-admiration, or have any sort of misunderstanding about my physical attractiveness.
But, what chemotherapy will do is to take control from any ability I might have had to hide from others that I have cancer. I won’t look like the typical me for several months. But, I’ll still be me.
It’s like a badge: yep, folks, I have cancer.
Hair off your head gone, strange cancer hats to wear, eyelashes gone, eyebrows gone, and the list continues.
I love my eyelashes. Vanity.
No eyebrows seem strange.
People ask about wigs, ask about “cold cap” therapies to try and save my hair, and again, after much thinking it over, I can say, no thanks.
I have cancer.
I’m going through chemotherapy.
I chose a pro-active cutting of my hair earlier this week, as several people recommended that it would make the hair loss less traumatic.
Eventually, I’ll just shave it.
My hairdresser is like a semi-therapist, and definitely a friend, so Tiff cut my hair with happiness and tried really hard to make it cute.
I feel like one of two people in this new haircut: My Mom or a 12-year-old boy.
So, no, I don’t feel “cute” in my new haircut.
It has to be OK.
If I can’t handle being bald and unsightly for 4-6 months of my life, then who am I?
What matters isn’t my hair, my eyelashes or whatever else falls out.
Getting ugly for a long, healthy life is worth it.
What matters is people that I love. The life I want to return to.
So, to hell with vanity.
And, to hell with privacy (this is WAY harder for me).
Everyone will know that I have cancer, even if I don’t know who they are.
So, if you don’t feel good in your body today, it’s OK.