Friday, December 3, 2010

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

WARNING: Contains harsh statements. Humor has not been used to soften the truth or otherwise entertain.

I consider myself a moderate when it comes to vanity. Always in fairly good physical shape, and born with the kind of metabolism that lets you eat whatever you want and not gain weight, I've always looked good in clothes, and was able to wear certain timeless items for many years. I have a pair of pants that go back at least 20 years, and I may wear them to a party tomorrow if the excess water around my midsection cooperates .

My hair was always thick and healthy. I've worn it very short for a very long time because I never want to use a hair dryer ever again. Now I have someone else's hair, and I don't know what to do with it.

The skin on my face was always better than average, a little freckled but soft and smooth with no wrinkles. Overall, I looked younger than I was, a nice perk when you hit middle age.

Unfortunately, in addition to hitting middle age, I also walked straight into a ghastly disease that wreaked havoc not just with my insides, but my outsides, too. Weight loss and hair loss turned me into a POW, repeatedly. Thankfully, these were temporary conditions.

But chemo, it seems, has left some ugly marks on my face that aren't going anywhere. A fellow transplant patient and friend recently posted on how she feels about her appearance. Another posted about the classic moonface one develops on steroids. We try to be upbeat and season our posts with self-deprecating humor. Laughing is better than crying, I suppose.

Well, I'm here to tell you that I only look in the mirror when I absolutely have to, and then I try to focus on the specific parts that needs attending to, for instance, my teeth. In addition to a HUGE brown spot on my right cheek (chemo burn), I have an overall uneven skin tone, with red blotches smeared here and there from my hairline to my cheeks to my nose. Actually, my nose is okay. To add insult to injury, my face is covered by what looks like pale fur. At least I've lost the moonface, the steroids almost behind me, for now. I suppose I could apply gobs of pancake makeup to my skin and hope I don't look too garish. But I've never really worn make-up, and like the short hair, I've always taken every possible shortcut I could on the road to Beauty. It's not that I'm trying to ignore aging and the ravages of time. I'm trying to ignore how quickly I made the transformation.

Somebody's out there's thinking, oh, but beauty's only skin deep. Inner beauty is what counts blah blah blah. Excuse me, but do you live in America??? Somebody else is out there thinking, hey, it's great you don't have leukemia anymore and survived to grapple with the fallout. I actually tell myself this a lot. But it's starting to feel questionable as a way to cheer myself up about the many deficits (physical and mental) I face. Sometimes I feel like I've survived the Apocalypse only to find myself wandering in a Nuclear Winter waiting for the next weird/ugly/uncomfortable event to threaten me and make me wonder where this all ends.


Paula said...

You DID survive leukemia and you will grapple with the fallout.

Will you finish your book?

You have this talent that's been untapped, plus, your a mom, and can do anything and everything!

Patiently waiting for this BOOK!....

Ann said...

I'm wandering that nuclear wasteland with you. Instead of wearing foundation, have you considered wearing a primer, instead. Philosophy makes an excellent one that you can purchase at their website or at Sephora. You only need a pea-sized amount and it smooths on like lotion with no color. It's packed with silicone, so it smooths out the texture of your skin and diffuses light. I used it for years when I didn't want to wear foundation and it helped. Just a thought.

Like we always seem to say, this too shall pass...just not quickly enough to suit us. :)

Jim said...


First, thanks for the nice comments on my blog recently. I agree Dori looks great and Will is becoming an amazing young man before our eyes.

I read this post and felt the same frustration I feel when Dori makes a negative remark about her appearance. I'm not a woman, so I don't understand. But what I do understand is how I see things.

I look at Dori, you, Ann, Ronni and others and see unqualified beauty and grace. I know the horror stories, like we all do, of cancer destroying families, rather than bringing them closer together.

The next time you look in the mirror, which I hope is soon because you are beautiful, think of the words of Jim Valvano, that cancer cannot take away the things that are important - your mind, heart and soul. (start around minute 7)