When I was about 11 years old, I figured out that if you opened the medicine cabinet door and leaned in toward the mirror, you would be able to see your profile. That was the first time I saw my nose from the side. I was shocked! I didn’t have a cute little upturned nose like the ones I saw on my friends. It was long, it came to a point, and the shape of my nostrils made it appear to have a slight downward slope. I was horrified.
I believe that was the moment when I lost the unwavering confidence of childhood.
Through my preteens, teens, and twenties, I spent much of my energy wanting to look different. I wanted to be thinner. I wanted my hair to be lighter, softer, and straighter. I wished for less body hair. I was self conscious of my muscular legs. I wished I had a different nose. I wanted to sweat less. I wanted bigger boobs. My arms were too thick.
It went on and on.
I was constantly trying to fix myself. I tried to eat less and exercise more. I ravaged my hair with heat and chemicals. I spent hours trying to figure out how to make up my face. I filled my closet with trendy clothes. It was exhausting.
As I grew up, I gained a little confidence. I still worried about my weight, my hair, and what other people thought about it.
And then came cancer and chemo.
Your focus changes considerably. It wasn’t about having the perfect hair or the perfect body. It became having any hair and a healthy body.
I lost my color. I lost my hair. I lost my eyebrows and some of my eyelashes. I lost my muscle strength and endurance. I gained scars. I gained a wig.
I gained perspective.
I spend alot of time in the car these days. I do some of my best thinking during long drives. I think about how much I used to worry. I think about how much I used to compare myself to everyone else. How much I cared about opinions.
I don’t care anymore.
When you have no eyebrows, you stop caring if they are perfect. When you have no hair, you don’t worry if it’s straight or curly, you just eagerly anticipate it’s return. When your body doesn’t have the strength it used to, you don’t care about vanity weight, you care about it being healthy and strong. And when your boob comes down with a little cancer, you stop caring about how big or perky they are, you just want them to be healthy.
I’m nearing the end of my fight. I have 8 radiation treatments left. After that I will be left alone (to a degree) with my body. I have learned so much. The things that matter are bold and clearly defined amidst the vast existence of everything. Vanity is just one of the things that I now see as black and white.
It’s almost time to get my body back into its healthy, fighting shape. It’s almost time to figure out how to deal with styling short, curly hair.
It’s time to live life to the fullest, beautifully.