Just to name a few. And if ever there was a time when a woman needed her self-esteem to help her through this B-Busting time, it would be now. However, many of us are already "in the hole" with our low self-esteem, so once we get a disease that robs us of our feminine qualities, we're in trouble. We put ourselves down even more. We feel ugly, weird, different. We are afraid to go out in public. We hate being stared at and we dread others' harsh or stupid commentary on our looks. It doesn't happen often, but enough to make us fidgety and on alert.
So, after dealing with all of the harsh side effects of treatment, one would hope a woman would say to herself, "I've been through so much. This really isn't the time to dwell on my appearance and feel bad about myself." One would hope that this woman is being gentle and kind to herself. However, quite the opposite happens.
Instead of Self-Loving, she turns to Self-Loathing.
"I'm so fat"
"I hate the way I look bald, or the way I look in a wig"
"I hate my man chest"
"My boobs are lopsided"
"I'm too skinny!"
The list of flaws is endless. She will even invent some that don't exist. And it slowly erodes at her soul as she continues sending her subconscious these horribly negative messages.
And if someone were to compliment her, she would just scoff at it and act like a defense attorney. "No, I do not have pretty eyes and teeth. See, look at that space right there." She will try her best to prove you all wrong, even though she has the face of a super model. She just doesn't see her beauty.
So ladies. I'm here to try to stop the madness. Even if you do not have breast cancer, chances are good you are unhappy with at least one thing about yourself. When did our self-worth become so dependent on our looks? Men do not waste this kind of time and energy looking in the mirror, frowning, crying, fixing, straightening, tweeking, and twitching about it all.
But we do! And it spirals out of control. We are just never satisfied. And I have to say, it makes me sad. And it makes me mad.
I am admittedly a vain person. I guess everyone has some vanity, to a degree. After going through this last year and so many physical reinventions; long hair, pixie hair, bald head, mastectomy, Puff Mommy body, I have always tried to look nice through it all because, well, I'm vain. My hair is growing back like a Chia Pet in progress. There's no easy way to grow out a bald head so you just have to let it do its thing, and put on some big ass earrings to detract from the hair! Normally, if I am seeing someone for the first time in a while, I would make comments about my hair, like "Oh, it's growing and I can't do much with it", almost in an apologetic way. WTF!? Why do I have to apologize or feel shame about the way I look? What if I did chose this gruesome hairdo? Who gives a good shit, as my mother would say. Sporting a Chia head certainly gives you a thicker skin, or it can break you. I chose to be tough.
I reached an impass last week. The day after Christmas I did something VERY brave. I stepped on the scale. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty but I did anyway. As soon as I stepped on, these words rolled off my tongue like I had been possessed by the ghost of Stuart Smalley:
"I love you no matter what"
And the number on the scale was quite frightening and an all time high for me. I should have been crying but instead, I just shrugged my shoulders, silently told myself, "It's ok", and stepped off. And I moved on. I then undressed to take a shower, also another adventure in sight seeing. Again, I would usually glance quickly then look away. But that day I said:
"I love you no matter what"
And you know, I think I have found my mantra, my self-affirmation, or whatever it is I need to get me through my middle age and beyond. As much as I will try to take care of my body, there will be jiggling, there will be rolls, there will be wrinkles on my face. I will never be an airbrushed version of myself, nor do I want to be. However, I can tell you that I will have the perkiest boobs in the nursing home when this is all said and done.
To all my sisters, both near and far, with or without breast cancer: I pray that you all accept yourselves "As Is", no matter what your imagined flaws are. In the end, looks and beauty mean absolutely nothing. I can also say that I have never been happier. I am more at ease with myself and I'm not "wasting time" dwelling on what I should or could look like. Again, it is what it is. It doesn't mean I am surrendering to a lifetime of obesity. It just means that in this moment, I am accepting myself, no matter what.
So, the B-Busting gifts that cancer brings? I'd say that is one of them. Learning to love myself, no matter what. If you dare, hang this sign up on your bathroom mirror. Say it out loud every time those negative thoughts start creeping in. It can set the entire tone for the day. And just before bed, make sure you say it again a few times as you drift off. It will bring much needed peace to your sleep. You might actually start believing it and then you can spend your precious time on this earth on the things that truly matter.