I Can see you hurting beneath your new red dress
Beneath your sharp new shoes and your new tattoos you are direction-less.And I know you’ve been working as hard as you can
To pre-empt the question, the expectation and I understand.
So come on now if we all pull together, we can lift up the weight of the world from your shoulders
Lift the the weight of the world from your shoulders just for a moment or two.
So many masks to wear, so much weight to bear but you were only ever you
You were glorious you, you were glorious
Frank Turner, “Glorious You”
“You look great!” This is a phrase that I’ve heard quite a bit lately, especially over the past few months. My 14+ hour surgery in April and my long recovery caused me to drop several pounds. Shorts that I squeezed into are hanging down on me and showing my underwear now, so I guess those won’t work!
In my professional working days, I would dress up considerably to go to work (suits, nice dresses), and then immediately switch over to about one step up from homeless on my day off (sweat pant city, and not a hint of makeup). There really was no in-between. Now that I am not working, I find that I am seeking ways to find that middle ground. I don’t want to look run down every day. Just because I often feel like shit, doesn’t mean that I have to look like it.
My solution is to wear my cute little summer dresses and skirts almost every day. A simple dress with an application of mascara to make myself look more tired can go a long way.
Cancer has stolen so much from me. I am determined to delay the inevitable effects on my external appearance for as long as I possibly can.
To say that I’ve been given an interesting cornucopia of genetics (some of which I am convinced are what put me in this predicament) is an understatement. One thing I definitely received is thick hair genes. Prior to chemo, my hair was so thick that my hairdresser would not only marvel at how long it took to cut and dry it but also how much was left on the floor afterward.
That thick hair is thinning out. With every shower, with every hair brushing.
But luckily, you can’t tell yet. In fact, my sparser hair has actually made my hair more easy to style and put up than I can ever remember. That high ponytail that I saw other girls do? I can finally do it now, because I don’t have masses of hair bunching up in front. I can even clip part of it back now in a clip or barrette without it immediately popping open and breaking.
“Feeling run down? Try cancer! There’s nothing quite like 3-part surgeries, weeks of brutal recovery, and intravenous poison injections to put that pep in your step!”
And if I look this great? I couldn’t possibly really have a terminal illness. I must be recovering!
I’m very sorry to tell you that no, I’m not. There are a lot of things that I am experiencing that you don’t see:
– You don’t see the ostomy bag affixed to my body just under the underwear line.
– You don’t see the scar lines that look like a road map on my abdomen. It spans from my boobs down to my c- section line. Then just above my naval, on my right side there is a large half smile that they cut to get to my liver.
– You can’t feel the cramping that continues from my large ovarian met, or the constant irritation from a steady stream of UTI infections that have become a new normal while my body is still struggling to get used to my ureter stent.
– You can’t feel the fatigue, mood changes, nausea and other body issues caused in the days following chemo.
– You aren’t noticing (or at least aren’t telling me) that this new regimen has my face breaking out in ways that I haven’t seen since I was a teenager.
– When I’m not wearing a low neck dress or shirt, you can’t see the chemo port implanted under my skin. You can’t see that it still sometimes irritates me. That the seatbelt strap goes right across it and makes me flinch from it every time that I get in the car.
But I am glad that you don’t. My entire life is already engulfed in cancer and fears about what’s going wrong internally. I’m not rushing into putting that internal torment onto my external visage. I may eventually lose all of my hair. I might eventually look gaunt. But today I am not either.
So go ahead and tell me that cancer looks good on me- as long as you aren’t flat out lying to spare me.