02 March 2007

I Have Breast Cancer; I'm Not Stupid

I used to care how I looked. I mean, really care. If the humidity was high, I devoted untold amounts of time to getting that very annoying little wave out of the top front of my head. It was very stupid looking, especially since the rest of my hair was fine and, though a little wavy, primarily straight. It would bother me all day long. Every time I glanced at myself in a mirror or reflection in a window, I would immediately set to bending my hair into submission. It never really worked.

When I found out that I was going to have to have chemotherapy, the very first thing I thought was, "no hair.' It was traumatic. Everyone kept reassuring me that it would grow back. That didn't exactly make me feel any better. Then there were sores inside my mouth that made it excruciating to eat anything, even frozen yogurt. There were hideous and painful sores on my hands. My personality virtually disappeared into the constant, all-over pain.

After my mastectomy, it was hard to feel good about my body. Harder still with sores, that classic moon face from the steroids, the extra 15 pounds I gained (also from the steroids), and losing absolutely all of the hair on my body. I started to look at myself only from the neck up. On most days, it was tough to even do that. That was okay, though. I needed all of the energy I could muster just to have the will to go on with the treatments.

By the time I got to radiation, I didn't care so much about the hair. I stopped wearing my wig, wore a ball cap for a while (a tasteful pink Phoenix Suns cap) and, after a while, just went bare-headed. I'd gotten some of my hair back by then and I consoled my co-workers (who were a little nervous about how to deal with mostly bald Ggirl) by telling them, "You'll get used to it. I did." I said it cheerfully.

I started to lose weight when I began radiation and got back to my old pre-steroid size. I got a breast prosthesis that didn't surreptitiously migrate up towards my neck when I wasn't looking. My eyebrows came back. My hair came back, darker and curly.

But I just don't care anymore. If my hair isn't looking good, I go with that. It is, after all, hair. It's completely unruly and I'm good with that. I don't wear makeup. Like after my dad's suicide, I just don't have the energy for it. I can come to work, barefaced, or I can stay home with makeup on. I don't care what I wear. I have this post-reconstruction vest-like bra that's impossible to wear with most of my clothes. My breasts aren't yet symmetrical. I don't care.

One of my co-workers came into my office today and told me she thought my hair is cute today, liked my (turquoise) necklace and heart-shaped earrings. I looked at her blankly. Can't you see I don't care anymore? I know people are trying to be nice when they compliment me. They tell me I look pretty. It's a pity compliment, though. I've got breast cancer, but it did not make me stupid. I say thanks, because that's what one is supposed to do when complimented.

I don't think I was a shallow person before. Caring about how I looked was just part of my whole gotta-be-perfect take on the world. I look at myself in the mirror now and wonder where my pre-breast cancer prettiness went. Then I remember that I just don't care.

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