We all deal differently with difficult news like a cancer diagnosis. And how we deal is individual and there is not really a right or wrong (as long as it it not harmful to oneself.)
While initially wanting to isolate and not face the reality of my diagnosis I knew I had to be strong and work to kick this cancer’s ass. I had to stay positive so I could do this.
One of the things I dreaded most with the chemo was the hair loss. Not because of how I’d look but because it’s how people know you have cancer. And I didn’t want people to know. Though eventually I learned not to care and instead be proud that I am battling this disease as best as I can.
I’ve always been low maintenance and not cared about my looks. I don’t wear makeup, I rarely dress up and I almost always wore my hair in a messy bun or ponytail. This is especially helpful as I prepare for a bilateral mastectomy, as I was never obsessed with my breast size and have come to terms with their necessary removal.
I started thinking about all this because of a chemo patient I’ve seen two different treatment weeks including at this week’s immunotherapy appointment. And let me preface this by apologizing for being judgmental. We are all entitled to deal differently and if you want to keep things as normal as possible, more power to you.
This patient has been coated in makeup at her appointments. At her first treatment she was in the lobby telling another patient she has to spend 3 hours in addition to the chemo for a cooling cap to try to save her hair. (From what I looked up cooling caps only work 50% of time.) She’s also dressed trendy like tight shirt and jeans. (I’m always about wearing sweats and comfy clothes but especially for chemo!) Again, my apologies I’m being very judgmental. I always look like a hot mess which has only gotten messier with each kid!
What I want to say to this woman is, looks don’t matter. Prepare that you’re going to look like crap some days. Prepare that your hair may fall out despite the cooling cap. Prepare that you may gain unwanted weight from steroids you may be on. Prepare that you need to reach a point where your looks no longer matter. What matters is that you’re here and you’re alive.
We tend to focus so much on appearance and lose sight of what’s important and that is what is on the inside. Survival is the focus, not looks. Who cares what you look like if you make it through. You made it and that’s a hell of an accomplishment.
So I apologize if I sound judgmental about how this patient is. I have learned a lot along this cancer journey and just want to convey to her that you’re too worried about what isn’t important. Focus on what’s on the inside and less about what people see. Let them see a warrior and a fighter and that’s what the loss of hair represents. It’s not a weakness.
Maybe I just don’t understand because I never cared much about my looks. But I’ve learned to care even less during this chemo journey because that’s not what matters. What matters is that I’m alive. What doesn’t matter is if I have hair or not or whether I’m 20 pounds over the weight I want to be. I’m here. I’m surviving. I’m still being a mom to my five kids and I’m appreciating life. That’s all I need to focus on.
#fighter #warrior #hairloss #chemo