I posted a picture of myself on Facebook the other day while I was at chemo. I also changed my profile picture. I no longer have my long, wispy hair. I’m no longer that pretty girl I saw in the mirror when I’d have my make up on and my hair was styled to perfection. On the contrary, the only time I have hair is when I’m sporting the uncomfortable itchy wigs that I have succumbed to wearing. However, the pictures I posted were of me wearing a hat and scarf. Somehow, I feel more comfortable wearing a scarf, a beanie or even a wrap on my head opposed to wearing a wig and trying to be someone I’m not. I’ve always known I was different. Being different at times can really rob you of your self identity and suddenly you find yourself trying to be someone you’re not. You spend a life time trying to please everyone and trying to be perfect. You try to act a certain way and you try to look a certain way.
Having cancer has been a very humbling experience. It’s also opened my eyes and has given me a whole new perspective. It’s not what’s on the outside that makes you beautiful. Rather, it’s what’s on the inside. When I began losing my hair after my first treatment, I was devastated. I cried a lot. I was embarrassed. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. I still struggle looking at myself every day but I’ve accepted it. I remember thinking “now I know how men feel when they lose their hair!” It’s a horrible feeling. I even thought about how many years I’d wasted being such a perfectionist when it came to my hair. I’ve been every stylists worse nightmare. Measuring every stand after each haircut. In a matter of 13 days after my first treatment, everything changed. I had read that I would lose my hair on the 14th day. I suppose I was in denial and kept thinking it wouldn’t happen to me. That was not to be the case.
I’ve learned to accept this new look. It’s given me the opportunity to accept myself for who I really am. While I was in Maui, occasionally I would take my walks wearing nothing on my head. It was bad enough I had to look like a Jeannie but having a tanned face and a white bald head wasn’t a very appealing look every morning I’d wake up and have to reacquaint myself with the new me standing in front of the mirror. I got many stares, but I didn’t care. After all, I had an excuse. One day, after a morning walk on the beach with my new friend Tracy, we were walking back to her car and there was a family staring at me as they were lying on their lawn chairs. Two of the young girls were stunners and they were with their parents. All of them staring. Their mouths wide open so I looked at them and said. “Chemo!!! Makes you look beautiful, but the good news is, I’m your Jeannie that just washed up on the beach and I’ll grant you 3 wishes!” At that point I know they felt bad but I made light of the situation and managed to find the humor in it. I earned the respect of this family and rather than allowing them to feel uncomfortable I made them feel like everything was ok. The father said “you never know what a person is going through if you just stare and you don’t ask. Thank you for sharing your story”. It really made me feel good. His words are still with me today. You never know what a person is going through. I find myself being more intuitive to others. Especially since I know what I’m going through, who’s to say what someone else is experiencing. I think if we could all have an open mind about others, the world would be a little more peaceful. I don’t feel the need to judge others. I don’t like being judged so what gives me the right to judge others.
I woke up this morning and I had over 100 likes of my chemo picture I posted the other day. My profile picture had over 50. I have to admit, I could feel the love from all of my friends who love me just the way I am. I’m bald today. I’m fighting cancer. Life is challenging. I’m lonely, I’m scared and I miss my family but the silver lining in all of this is I’m beginning to accept myself for who I am on the inside and not so much on the outside. I’m still that quirky girl who loves to laugh, I still believe in fighting for what I believe in, I have an open mind, I still have a big heart filled with lots of love, I love to write, I love meeting new people and I’m thankful everyday for my children. I still have the same hopes and dreams. I’m still different but I’m still me and for once I’m ok with being me. I read a post the other day that said “step in to my shoes and walk the life I’m living. If you get as far as I am, just maybe you will see how strong I really am!” We all face challenges in life. Some worse than others but we all have the ability to be strong and we all have the ability to be accepting of others. We are different but we are still the same.
Once upon a time I was pretty on the outside but today I feel pretty on the inside. I’ve always said to my daughter. “You’re beautiful and perfect in every way. Inside and out”. Today I’m telling myself the same thing and I’m saying the same words to each and every one reading this. Especially those battling cancer. We may be bald, we may look run down but “we are still beautiful and perfect in every way”.