As I stand in the bathroom smoothing moisturizer onto my throat and face, I stare at myself. Only now instead of looking to see if there are any blemishes that need covering up today, or whether the dark circles under my eyes need it, there is only one thing that draws my gaze.
My head. My nearly bald head.
Look - I know it's part of the deal. In order to beat this stupid disease, I need treatment, and that treatment makes me bald. I accept that. But I don't have to like it. It's weird. ALL the changes that this disease and treating it have made to my body - they're all weird.
You may not realize this about me - but I'm vain. Always have been. Not conceited - I'm no Cindy Crawford by any means - but I was a cute girl, and a pretty young woman, not to mention a bit of a hot mama in my younger days. I took pride in how I looked. I may not have re-done my makeup 4 times a day in high school (and yes - might have made fun of those who did), but I made sure my hair and makeup looked good before I left the house for the day. And I did that every day. I was not the gal who ran to 7-11 without her makeup on. Ever. If you saw me out and about, I was wearing makeup. It might just be foundation and mascara, but it was there.
I can't wear mascara anymore - because I have no eyelashes. I can't fix my hair anymore because I have none. I wonder if perhaps God is teaching me a lesson somehow - that I took too much pride in how I looked before, and now I'm having to re-evaluate my image of myself. Even if that's not the case, it's what I'm doing these days. When I don't look in the mirror and see a little old man anyway.
I had hoped that I would have some kind of ethereal beauty even with my baldness - that somehow something would shine through the havoc cancer has wrecked on my body. Um. No. Didn't happen. It's hard to look ethereal with a sparse gray fringe and no eyebrows. This is why I wear scarves and don't rock the bald look. I try to smile more - smiles always make you look better. But it really does bother me that I have no eyelashes.
Why am I sharing that I'm a vain ex-hottie? Not to get comments that I still look good, or anything like that. Really. Rather I'd like that someone with this stupid disease to find this and realize that cancer really does change more than just your body. It changes your attitude - and how you view yourself. Once upon a time when asked to describe myself, I would say "kinda cute, mousy brown hair, nice brown eyes." Now I'm "the chick with the scarf on her head." That's it.
Man what I wouldn't do to have that "mousy" brown hair again. I wonder if I'll ever be able to just accept that I'll never be that woman again. Will I be able to accept this new look? This disease and its treatment has aged me - it really has. I spent most my life looking somewhat younger than my age. Now I look much older. As I look towards my birthday tomorrow - where I'll turn 48 - I look in the mirror and see a woman who looks older - in her 50's maybe. But that's not really such a bad thing is it? Isn't 50 the new 40? If not, I'm making it so!
Don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful to be having another birthday tomorrow. There were a few days last October when I wasn't so sure that would be the case. And now - oddly enough- I'm looking forward to turning 50. Before I got sick, I was kinda dreading it. Now I know - it's way better than the alternative! Yet I'm trying to be brutally transparent on this blog - because I think it's important for people to know what cancer does to you. How it changes you - not just physically, but emotionally as well. I'm lucky that it's not making me bitter (much). I hope it never does. But I am not the same woman I was 7 months ago.
Not hardly. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.