On Day 18 of posts, I wonder in how many of the previous posts I’ve mentioned my hair loss. Quite a few, I think! It’s an impactful, distressing event. After a couple treatments, my hair was coming out in handfuls and getting all over everything. When I finally let my husband shave my head, I cried a lot. You know, those big, ugly sobs that have a hiccup to them. Once I got past that, I knew I had to face the world as a hairless woman.
I was embarrassed by the way I looked. I lost my head hair, my eyebrows, and my eyelashes, all things that framed my face in a way that says, hey, that’s Denise. Now, I looked different, and I felt ashamed. Even with scarves, hats, and eyebrow pencils, it was hard to go out and be seen. Embarrassment diminished my self-confidence.
There were embarrassing things caused by cancer and treatment other than hair loss. Surgery made me look different. I won’t go into the embarrassing details, only to say it wasn’t confidence-inspiring. When I had anemia, my skin became very pale. The mirror showed a ghost of myself! I guess I looked like a cancer patient.
Not every embarrassing feeling I had was related to my appearance. I was weaker than my usual self, and it was noticeable. When my son had his senior day, I couldn’t go high in the bleachers because it was too hard to walk up those steps. When my husband took me to a play, I was unsteady getting to our seats. At times, I used a cane, and I needed the handicapped parking spots. I felt very self-conscious from all these changes.
I also felt embarrassed when I broke down emotionally. When I cried during the nurses’ attempts to access my port, I felt ashamed that I was crying. Needing a lot of help, at least at first, caused me to feel embarrassed. I was more forgetful while on chemo, couldn’t think as clearly as usual. Sometimes, I felt like my head was floating on a cloud, especially when I had the anemia. None of this was very self-assuring.
You might think, oh, that’s silly. You had a terrible disease with matching treatment. It’s okay for these things to happen. I’m sure I said things like this to other people! But when it happens to you, you react. Your mind shuts down and emotion floods in. There’s no stopping it. And guess what: that’s okay. Feeling is living, and it’s important to give yourself permission to feel.
Once you’ve let your emotions flow through, then you can take a step back and think about what to do next. You can’t control your feelings, but you can control your actions. I got into wearing and shopping for scarves. I went to a class on makeup from the American Cancer Society, which turned out hilarious because I tried all the makeup and looked like an overdone clown! It was funny and I enjoyed the event.
I made fun of myself and laughed about my looks regularly. It put others at ease. As for my weakness and my thinking issues, there wasn’t anything I could do about those. I mostly stayed home yet when something important was happening, I vowed to not miss it, and I didn’t, even if it was difficult for me.
Don’t let embarrassment control your life. When you feel it coming on, forge ahead anyway. Laugh at yourself and include your family and friends. Do what’s important to you as long as you can physically manage it and the doctor gives the go-ahead. The rewards are usually much greater than the few embarrassing moments you may experience. Be proud that your facing this challenge of cancer and treatment, overcoming it every day you’re alive.
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