Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It's What's On The Inside That Counts, Right?

This past year has really changed my perspective on a variety of aspects of my life, one being the definition of beauty. I don't feel beautiful anymore and cancer has a lot to do with that.

When I think of a beautiful woman, I picture Beyoncé or Scarlett Johansson or my mom and all of these women have beautiful curves, the hair that women dream of, working-women-parts and two breasts. I on the other hand don't possess such beauty. I have so much extra weight on me, my curves have turned into blobs. I have tried to lose weight but between the exhaustion of post-treatment and now going back to work, the weight-gain side effects of Tamoxifen, and being predisposed to being overweight because of PCOS, it is becoming inevitable that I will be overweight forever. My hair is, well, I have hair... but I think what makes it hard is that my short hair is a constant reminder that I had cancer and chemo and I don't have a choice in my hairstyle right now - cancer has given me THIS hairstyle. The working women's parts are to be determined and we won't know until I try to have a baby in 4.5 years - I'll keep you posted. And finally, only having one breast, in a world where we are bombarded with sex, sex, sex, and breasts, breasts, breasts, and cleavage, cleavage, cleavage, I have one breast. My breast(s) aren't even sexual to me anymore, Lefty looks like a breast but doesn't feel like one (I lost all sensation after I had a reduction to try and even them out) and Righty is just a lump (currently with an expander). I feel like I have lost my sex appeal; I feel like I've lost my womanhood.

I have recently tried to focus on my 'insides' and all that I have to offer that you can't see. I am proud of myself for who I have become and I know I have a lot of great traits but when I'm walking down the street, or going to a job interview, or meeting a friend's new boyfriend, in the back of my mind I always wonder 'Can he tell that my right breast is currently a face cloth stuffed into my mastectomy bra to even me out?' and 'I wonder if he's seen pictures of me with long hair - I looked prettier with long hair' and 'I used to weigh a lot less - don't judge me at the weight I'm at now.'

It's easy for me to recognize my good characteristics but it would be nice to be told I'm pretty... and to believe it. I am very lucky to have people all around me (including family, friends and the Amazing Keith) who tell me how beautiful I am, but I have gotten to a place where I don't believe them because I don't feel very womanly anymore. What's that saying, 'you can't expect someone else to love you if you don't love yourself'? I think this kind of falls under that category.

There is so much support for our physical needs when we are cancer patients, your oncologist, your nurses, your pharmacist and your drugs are all trying to balance the cancer-killing drugs with the anti-nausea, anti-anxiety drugs but I have to say, especially near the middle of treatment, I started wondering 'which of these 13 lettered prescriptions will cure my heartache over having cancer?' and 'Is it this little white pill that will help grow my breast back? No, no, wait, it's to take care of my fear of recurrence.' My point is, there is not enough support for the psychological side of cancer. How am I supposed to deal with cancer's impact on my self-image? How do I face the fact that the odds of me having cancer again, is quite likely? How do I deal with the fact that I think about my funeral - probably more than I should?

I know, deep in my heart, that it is what's on the inside that counts. I know that breasts, and hair, and being 'skinny' shouldn't be my priority and most of the time they're not but every now and again I get pretty pissed off that cancer robbed me of all of it.

On the other hand...

I met someone at work today who, after finding out that I had cancer, shared that his dad was currently in chemo. He started asking questions about my cancer and I told him about surgery and treatment to which he replied 'Oh good, you had surgery'. I thought 'Oh ya, it was great, I love not having a breast. What a weird thing to say.' He then told me about his father who had esophagageal cancer and they couldn't operate unless they collapsed a lung, broke his chest cavity and then removed part of his esophagus, all with having a 10% chance of success. So instead, he stays in chemo, so that he can eat and so he can stay 'comfortable'. He's damn right that I was lucky I had surgery. I get so angry with myself sometimes for feeling sorry for myself for not having a breast when some people are living with cancer and they would do anything to hear 'We've found a way to remove your cancer. We're going to operate tomorrow.'

14 comments:

  1. Katie. First of all you ARE beautiful. Truly beautiful, inside AND out.
    You are your own person. You are YOU. Nobody else. And you can't measure your journey against anyone else's. You are an individual, on an extraordinariy path and someone who has decided, no matter the pain, to take your fight public. You have many people on your side and cheering for you. You have shown an amazing commitment to making this horrible disease something that is worthing fighting against. Well done. XOXOOXOXXOOX

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    1. I really appreciate the self-esteem booster.

      I can't tell you the value of your words...

      Thank you!

      Katie

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  2. Ever since I've known you, I've been struck by the beauty of your face. Your eyes are striking, your smile is perfection, and your facial features are just natural beauty. Gotta tell ya, it's always been your face (to me) that has made me envious (as females tend to be), even when you had your long hair. It's that face. I know you're not looking for compliments - but this made me realize I've always thought of you this way, but just never told you. Felt like I should tell you. :)

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    1. Dammit Maggie, you have me in a puddle of my own tears. Thank you, seriously, thank you. My heart needed that! And you're right, I wasn't looking for compliments but it did feel good to read it.

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  3. Katie,
    Just because someone else is worse off than you, that doesn't minimize what you have lost and what you are going through. You have lost a lot. You have the right to grieve for things/parts of you that have been lost. Give yourself more time. Self-acceptance is really hard. It was hard before cancer, well for me anyway. After this "cancer-induced make-over," it's even harder. I know where you're coming from. Sometimes I hardly recognize myself when I look in the mirror. And my hair is still a disaster. Ugh...Be gentle with yourself. That's always good advice.

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    1. Thanks Nancy. Always the wise one...

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  4. My dear Katie, I only know your looks from the avatars I see of you on-line, but I know you are beautiful. And awesome. And your writing? Nails it all. Every time I read your posts, I am nodding my head in agreement, tearing up at the all the truths you write (even the hard one, even the ones that can be difficult to share and say out loud). I know, it doesn't mean much coming from me, especially when you don't feel it yourself. But I do mean it. From the bottom of my heart.
    We have been tasked to take what is at best a shitty situation and somehow continue to live our lives having gone through it. And it can be so extremely hard.
    Anyway, all of this to say, I so get it. I'm so wishing I knew how to just make it better. And you are beautiful, even if you don't feel it this moment. And I'm so glad we've connected.

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    1. Thank you Brandie. What kind words. And it DOES mean something coming from you. I know that you get it.

      Sometimes I feel like I take 3 steps forward and 1 step back and although I'm ahead of the game, that 1 step back is often such a big one.

      For the record, I am also so glad that we've connected.

      Katie

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  5. Katie, some people have this certain presence about them and you are one of those people that has it. Not only are you smart but you are beautiful inside and out.

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    1. Oh Lou, thank you very much! That's very sweet of you.

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  6. I can so relate to how you're feeling! I go back and forth, moping over my ugly chemo frizz, my deformed, discoloured, distorted boob, the extra pounds I tote around these days.. And then I read about someone finding out their cancer has spread, or recurred and I feel ridiculous and shallow moping when I should be ecstatic that it was caught early.. But there are days when I just want to be beautiful again for my husband, or get all done up and look young, vibrant & feminine again.. And it seems impossible.. This disease is cruel and we're incredibly strong to fight through it and come out of it with pride and positivity.. Yes we're scarred, our estrogen is suppressed, our hair not how we'd ever chose it to be.. But we made it through something that a lot of people couldn't.. We're fighters.. We're survivors.. And yes, even when we couldn't feel any less so, we're beautiful.. Not many people can look good bald after all :) I think you're stunning inside and out, keep your head held high chica! xoxoxoxo

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    1. Diana, how great are you? Thank you for validating my feelings, thank you for the 'me too' comment.

      I know you get it. I nodded the whole time I read your comment.

      Thank you for not making me feel crazy.

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  7. BC at age 50 is one thing (sucks) but when it hits women half my age? That simply isn't fair. None of this is fair. Hang in there. And keep writing!

    PS I am passing your blog along to a BC friend who is also in the "under 30" club.

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    1. Hi Renn,

      Thank you for that! Breast cancer at any age SUCKS, it's just different at 26, there are different challenges and obstacles.

      Let your under 30 BC friend know that I am always up for a good rant/vent/chat about breast cancer and the same goes to you.

      Katie

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