…sparks a very emotional point of perspective…
I no longer see the person I remember pre-cancer. I believe most survivors FEEL this way with either their outer or inner being or both. For me personally it’s both. I have learned to accept what I can not change and rid my thoughts of vanity before life. Lessons I could have used, about age 16 would have been nice. When making choices about treatment vanity was never a thought. That was driven home so many times while talking to people who were deciding what treatment they wanted to have. When they would ask about nipple sparring or scars or pain; I would pose the question, “Is vanity more important than your life?” The most aggressive treatment to keep recurrence at bay is my sane place. Choose not to live in the shadow of cancer as a wise doctor once told me.
While taking my beloved pink pat pictures at the SCV Relay for Life a survivor commented to me, “No thank you, I look terrible in pictures”. I convinced her to do it anyway. After I sent her the photo she said, “See, I told you”. The following was my response to her.
“I know this is unsolicited, but, I want to share my perspective on this with you… Self image as a survivor is not about our outward appearance any longer. I was a svelte, beautiful woman before my health problems started. Now all I see is an elephant arm from having 29 lymph nodes removed, bodily scars that make me feel like the Bride of Frankenstein* (to allow me to look “normal” in clothes), a pregnant looking stomach that no one can explain why I have it, no metabolism left after chemo to allow me to shed weight, missing patches of hair in the oddest of places….If these are any of the things you feel; It’s Not what your loved ones See. They still see and feel our beauty and the strength that got us to survivor-ship, it actually intensifies that beauty to them.
If we succumb to this I realized it would be unfair not to allow myself to be photographed for them…not me.
Allow your inner beauty to shine through your eyes and smile no matter how you are feeling about the facade. Give them that…they deserve that!”
This is just the beginning of my Cancer Truths; the things you rarely talk about because you are so grateful to be alive. And almost only share with other survivors, especially when you find a resolution to deal with it and possibly help others. What ever it is at that moment. Don’t ever think we would trade the struggles post treatment for our life. We have fought so long and hard that it pains us to see people smoke or do just about anything that risks life needlessly.
I value my journey and the ability to share HOPE!
*(important note; the reference to feeling like the Bride of Frankenstein has to do with the amount of surgery’s and scarring and NOT the quality of my reconstruction. I had the best surgeons ever. Dr. Maggie Dinome and Dr. Tracy Cordray)