A breast cancer survivor shares her experiences with the BRCA gene.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Campfire of the Vanities

You would think with a life-threatening diagnosis before me that I would be focused on the higher things in life. But, I must point out as a Southern Belle, shallowness and vanity are part of my birthright.

So while the unknown pathology results loom before me, I realize I can't do anything about staving off cancer and must bravely face the outcome. You learn when you have cancer, you simply must accept what comes your way and rise to the occasion and deal with it. Monday, I will see my surgeon who will deliver the verdict. Yes, I'm nervous to know what my future holds...but meanwhile, I have other things to obsess over.

Such as cellulite. This has been a recent fixation of mine, examining every inch of my body for lumpiness. After breast cancer treatment 7 years ago, my obsession was eyebrows -- or lack thereof. Just so you know, I had beautiful dark eyebrows, which didn't return after chemo.

None of my friends could understand my irritation; however, most of them are blondes. (Which makes me think I should re-examine my choices in friends.) I, on the otherhand, have dark hair and dark eyes, so eyebrows dramatically define your face. Think Brooke Shields.

After much whining and gnashing of teeth, I located an excellent "permanent makeup" (tatoo) artist, who crafted some exquisite brows for me.

With cancer and chemo, it's a full-time job maintaining your appearance. The loss of hair. The scarring from surgery. The lymphedema ballooning your arm at inconvenient periods. What's a girl to do, I ask you?!

Now, I know you're thinking I'm being silly and shallow in light of what's facing me. But, those traits are also what maintain your normalcy throughout a period that is anything but normal. Why can't cancer patients be as trite as everyone else?

Years ago, during my chemo days, a coworker asked how I was doing, and I replied that I was fine except for losing those darn eyebrows.

She looked at me in horror over my admission. She grabbed both my arms: "Be grateful for life!" she lectured.

Now, there's a concept! I wasn't thinking about being grateful. I left this interaction feeling guilty, but irritated that I got slapped down for being honest.

Then, I was walking with my "cancer mentor" and mentioned my anger about my browless condition.

"I know exactly how you feel!" she exclaimed. "I hated that part of chemo, too." Honesty is the best medicine.

So, while people in my situation face the reality of death (instead of some vague concept that may happen in the distant future), it's nice to know I can still take part in the same daily dramas that those without cancer relish in.

After all, Southern Belles are known for our dramatic flair as well.

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