10.14.2013

Cancer Ain't Pretty

I recently found this blog that I wrote a couple of months ago, toward the very end of my treatment. For whatever reason, it got buried and went unpublished. Now that I have a full set eyelashes again, I look back at this and realize how far I've come in what seems like an eternity a few short weeks. I pet my soft, fuzzy head. I wonder if my hair looks like it's growing back in blonder. And I'm starting to feel a pudgy satisfaction, though I've yet to gain back a solid 5 pounds. I'm moving around at my usual 110% again, despite some lingering side effects that try to slow me down. But in reading this, I was quickly reminded that mere weeks ago I was a hot mess; a sobbing, miserable, scary, mess.

As lovely as some of you may think I am in my normal, non-chemo state, let's be honest about how I look in my current state.

Please don't take offense if you've tried to flatter me recently. I haven't been put off and I've seen your pure-hearted goodness and best of intentions when you've told me I "look great!" It's just part of all those sweet social graces passed down to us, and we really don't know any better; especially in dealing with cancer patients or anyone chronically ill. But, really, let's be honest.

For starters, I've shown you what's going on up top. I've been vulnerable. I've shown you hair that looks just about as pretty as some mangy dog found runny the back alleys. Though I'm past the point of needing a good shave, my vanity and the risk of sun damage keeps everything under a hat or that synthetic thing I've named Robert. It was that same vanity that kept me hanging on to my thinning hair as long as I did. I am living proof that you can have cancer and still worry about your appearance to the vainest of degrees.

I'll be honest and say that despite what my eyes see when they look at the scale, they often don't see the same thing when I look in the mirror. Even in my malnourished state, I still suffer from body image issues and often don't see my body for what it actually is. My subconscious fails to notice that I have to pull my shorts up about 425 times a day or can see shoulder bones poking through t-shirts. For once, I think it might be great for my mental health to see a body that's 25 pounds heavier than it actually is when I look at my sad little naked self in the mirror.

But the reality is I don't look lovely, and you need not say nice things to fuel my artificial self-esteem. I know better. I see how odd I look with just a handful of remaining eyelashes. I see how odd I look with creases of wrinkly skin, desperate to be reinflated with any amount of subcutaneous fat. I see how odd I look with a breast bone sticking out farther than the very breasts is hides behind. I do my best to make the most of what I have left on days I have the energy, but this front is slipping through the cracks and not by choice!

Last year, I started out looking sick and gradually started looking well as I regained all the weight the tumor sucked out of me. This year, I headed the opposite direction. The power of fake pot was useless in creating an appetite. And even if it did, my GI tract is so damaged right now I don't think it can absorb anything useful anyway.

Unlike last year, I feel like I truly look sick this time. I look like a cancer patient, which I find so shocking, despite having been one for almost 2 years now. And all I can do is put on a hat, powder in my eyebrows and meticulously try and apply mascara to my 9 bottom eyelashes without smearing it all over the place.

I am not ashamed to flaunt my chemo-breathing self out in public. There are days when it's all I can do to put on a hat and look sickly at Target. There are days when cancer and chemo have more control over me than I do. I've rocked my bony self in pre-pubescent boob fitting bikinis at the pubic pool with my port and scars hanging out for the world to see. I am merely a public servant; a walking billboard for cancer and why you really shouldn't put off going to the doctor when you think something isn't quite right. I'm advertising the importance of preventative care, knowing family history and why sometimes it's just your luck of the draw.

You need not lie to me people. It ain't pretty and you do not need to convince me otherwise. Don't bother telling me I look good when I know it's not true.

On the upside, I have one treatment left, which means things like hair and body fat are on my immediate horizon! And all vanity aside, I'm beating the evil enemy inside, even if it's destroying what's on the outside.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15...16, um 17, maybe 18 bottom eyelashes?



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