When I was young, I went through this phase of signing all of my notes, cards, and drawings, “Jenny The Great”. Apparently, I thought I was pretty terrific (although I don’t recall those high levels of confidence). I suppose when you are a child, confidence is a given, perhaps something that we are born with? Now that I have children of my own, I do recall similar exclamations, “boy am I pretty”, “this looks great on me”, and my favorite… “you sure are lucky to have me”. When I hear my children boast about themselves, I pat myself on my back and think that somehow I instilled that confidence in both of them. Yep, I give myself full credit of being that powerful. HA!
Sadly, over time life begins to rob you of that confidence you felt as a child. So, when the day comes when Jenny isn’t so great, who is she?
Cancer has robbed me of my former identity. I am not saying I loved my appearance before cancer but, lets just say I felt I was in control of my appearance. Now, cancer has put me through the ringer for sure. It started off by taking away my hair completely. You think bald is crazy, go shave off your eyebrows and try and work it. I lost a bunch of weight while on chemo and my eyes sort of sank into my face. There isn’t enough self tanner in the world to darken cancer pale.
Then I started the series of surgeries. They placed a port in my upper chest so I look like I have an on/off switch (oh does my husband wish). Then they removed all of my estrogen producing organs that potentially feed my type of cancer. Well shoot, that’s all internal…but is it? When your body is robbed of all hormones guess what…you gain weight and experience hot flashes. That’s okay because that’s juuuuuust about the time your hair starts to grow back and you get to rock a new version of yourself monthly.
Ahhhh then you have hair again. It’s okay that you are a little chunky and the medicine makes your joints feel like you’re 80, you have your beloved hair back. Well, or someones hair anyway. Mine came back dark brown and curly???
Then just when you begin to identify with the girl in the mirror, it’s time for surgery again. This time it is not internal. They remove both of my breasts and leave me looking like a mangled version of myself. Clothes hang awkwardly and people stare when I am at the pool. Struggling to get up from the pool deck because my joints hurt so badly, my prosthetic (aka my FOOB) pops out. I snatch it up and run to my chair. I don’t feel great anymore.
And, radiation burns. Not just topically but internally cooks all of the moisture out of my skin, nails, hair, and body. My nails are so short they hurt. At least I have my hair. Surprise, it’s falling out again thanks to the oral chemo they put me on after surgery.
This is living with cancer. This is me. Don’t get me wrong I love my life and I am happier than I have ever been before. That is the silver lining to cancer. You get these really cool glasses that allow you to see life through new lenses. Yet, it sure doesn’t make looking in that mirror any easier. Where is Jenny the Great?
As I leave my doctors office I see a small, little sign hanging on the wall that reads, “Strong is the new pretty”.
I am stronger than I have EVER been in my life.
Well, there she is!