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WebCafe is pleased to share the very personal insights, wisdom and poetry of Cynthia Kinsella. To read Cynthia's survivor story, see Tales from the Trenches, Cyndi
I remember being 29 and conversations stopping when my posse and I entered a dance club on more than one occasion. We where a blond, brunette, and a red head all intelligent, independent, living in Europe and at our prime. The stories I could tell…….but being a lady….well you understand. As the years went by my view of myself as a woman became very much a part of who I am. One day I woke up and was 47 all of the sudden. I imagined if asked I would have told you that I was at my best. While faithful to my husband, I did so love knowing I could still make a young grocery bagger stammer with just a smile.
Then the C word entered my life. I remember walking out of the bathroom in the hotel there was a full length mirror staring at you. I really looked at myself for the first time in a long while. I think by not looking I did not have to deal with it. And I stopped and wondered who this person was. She was bald not only on her head but all over. She was bloated from the steroids and the ravages of all her treatments. She had a scar on her breast from the port and bruising all over, it didn’t take much anymore. Tired eyes looked back at me from a pale face, once soft skin now dry and dull.
I cried that day and looking back I realize that hardest part of it was not knowing who I was anymore. My looks had become such a part of me that I was adrift. Through that experience I have had to come to terms with who I am today. Chemotherapy and radiation are close to a year behind me and I really looked at myself in a full length mirror the other day. And I saw myself……a woman that has faced so many challenges in her life and battles on, a good mother and loved wife, smart, resourceful, resilient, blessed and a survivor. My husband loves me for me, my smile and laugh and even my warped since of humor. I was the person I had been all along only older, wiser and yes with higher mileage. But at a good place a confident place, I no longer look as I did before the C word, but I look like me and that is not a bad thing at all. Things with time had improved my straight thin hair came back thick and curly I call it my little bonus. And the other day I made a grocery bagger stammer with a smile, not bad at a high mileage 49 in my book.
The affects of cancer treatment can be devastating to a woman on so many levels, an intensely emotional burden at a time that little energy is left to deal with it. For some surgery can hit us at our most basic levels threatening our sexuality and body images. I am far from having all the answers. The answer to most is intently personal and only come with time. But I will share with you what helped me.
I talked about my fears and concerns. Don’t bottle it up. If you have a significant other tell him how you feel. Don’t be upset if he doesn’t have all the words you need to hear he is going through a lot also. But a therapist or a girlfriend will do as the main idea is to face your fears.
I never left the house without dressing nicely and putting on makeup. Knowing you looks as good as you can is good for you confidence.
The ACS Look good Feel good is a great idea. They can teach you techniques such as how to use make up to get a good look after you lose eyebrows or eyelashes. As well as how to keep up your skin during chemo.
I bought the best wig I could afford. Synthetics are cheaper and easier to care for and if you get a good one they look very natural. Shop around if you can and buy it before you need it. Take someone that you trust their taste. You have to try many on it is like finding a price you have to kiss a few………
We all have wig storys they were not the end of the world and I now laugh at mine. If one slips or the such just put it back on and act like nothing happens. If you really fear it find some wig tape and try that we all learn the ends and outs of them with time.
Treat yourself well. Apply a good skin and face lotion at least twice a day.
If you can get out and about have a facial it is a good investment.
A manicure and pedicure goes a long way in the feel good department.
A bubble bath is good for the aches and pains and very relaxing.
And last but not least give yourself time. You may look different as the months pass but one day you will look in the mirror and see the new you. Many of the changes during treatment will rectify themselves once it is over.
Over the time I have read many things about how to get well and stay that way. Some where common sense others where way out there. It put me in mind of what my father once said. When I asked him how his doctors appointment went he answered that by the time the doctor told him everything he needed to give up to get well he couldn't remember why he wanted to live. I wrote this for all of us that have ever felt that way. Before you ask no I am not a member of AA and no I don't have Lloyd's number. But if you want a list of my real bad habits just send a self addressed envelope and a large check and I will send them out to you right away.
August sixth 2004…………if I give into it I can recall the intense terror that day brought. The feelings of confusion, fear, anger, sorrow, regrets and guilt for doing this to my family paralyzed me. Only the knowledge that doing nothing was not an option moved me forward. Then the second opinion, and I knew I was in for the fight of my life and determination to slay this beast became my reason for being, and fight I have. Radiation, chemotherapy, endless test, scans and so many biopsies and tumor removals I lost track of the numbers. But no matter what we threw at it the cancer thrived and took root once again necessitating major life changing surgery. Then one day I realized that maybe just maybe we had won the battle. Only time will tell if it will attack again.
August sixth 2007……… Today finds me thriving with the constant rechecks for recurrence a part of my life but no longer the center of it. When looking back I think of a conversation I had with an Ontological Social Worker, sitting in chemotherapy one day, as being a pivotal point in my life. I told her that I was having trouble imagining living life with such uncertainty in it. How do you go forward if you do not know if you are going to be here this time next year or not? And she answered me with a question” How would you live your life differently if you knew?” When it comes down to it none of us really do know what the future will bring. The only thing any of us know with any certainty is that we have today. Maybe I was given a gift in a way for I think most of us never realize how tenuous life really is. I am no more perfect than I was three years ago but I like to think I am wiser. I try very hard to make sure that the words that I would regret not speaking are spoken. I try never to be too busy to see the small joys and miracles of life, the fall day, a good cup of coffee, a new baby or sharing a joke with a friend. I no longer think of doing things someday I do them now. I celebrate birthdays with abandon my age no longer something to morn but to celebrate. I try to forgive others and myself more quickly and love as I want to be loved. I try to think of unlimited possibilities instead of why something is impossible to accomplish. I no longer see sitting with my feet in a stream reading a book as a waste of time. And I try never to forget that tomorrow is a miraculous gift.
|Last Updated ( Wednesday, 26 March 2008 )|