Cancer, vanity, and my really hot husband.

Chesterman Beach Selfie

Couple not actually sponsored by North Face.

You probably look at this photo and see a happy couple – and this is true. We are a happy couple. I should look at this photo and only see a happy couple but my first thought when I saw this was, pancreatitis “look at this nice picture of that woman AND HER SON.”

What I don’t see when I look at this photo is someone I recognize standing beside my husband. (I recognize him though because he hasn’t aged at all since we were 15.) All day I have been debating whether to post this to Instagram because I have been quite diligent about posting photos of our trip (I don’t want to forget anything and my memory isn’t the best these days). The memories we are making have been great, the girls are having a wonderful time, and for the most part I have been feeling pretty good.

And I told myself – no, I promised myself – that I would put myself in the photos once in a while. I don’t want my girls to not have photos of their mom but, oh man, my vanity is really taking a hit here. There is just so much grey, and my hair is so short and I still have very little muscle tone and my clothes fit terribly because I’m all soft. Trying on new clothes makes me want to cry. I’m not hiking up and down mountains out here either. Most days I have to stay home in the morning while the Mister and the girls go off adventuring because if I try and do something during the morning and afternoon I get worn out too easily, my bones start to hurt again, and my back tries to seize up.

There is only so much mind-over-matter one can do in a situation like this. I know I should try and “own it” but that is actually a really hard thing to do. The reality is that I know I am lucky to still be alive, but I think it is okay to not be so overly grateful that you settle for looking and feeling like shit. There was something going around Facebook and Instagram the other day with the hashtag #perfectlyimperfect and I considered participating up until the point I took a selfie and then immediately deleted it because YIKES! Except history has proven to me time and again that even though you look at a photo and think it is awful now, someday you’ll look worse and look back at that photo and wish you had appreciated it – and yourself – then.

So what is the solution? Well in the immediate sense it is to smile at the camera and try not to be too hard on myself when I see the results. Another solution would probably be to try and get well enough so I can (run my ass off) actually do some exercise when we return from our trip and try and feel good about my body. I used to always joke to myself that when I got old I would go back to modelling as a silver-haired model. Now I’m always slightly anxious that I don’t get to be an old lady and cancer is trying to turn me into one already. Ugh. At this point I’m not ready to “own it”, I just want to look like what I perceive to be the real me. This is why I still have photos of me with long dark hair on my social media profiles. I’m not ready to give up that pre-cancer version of myself even if I’m never going to be the same person again.

And I know you like the hair (or so people keep telling me), but that doesn’t make me like it more. However, I’m trying to wear the cancer hat less because Fionnuala told me I look more like myself without it on even with the short grey hair. The girls view of me does matter.

PoutyFaceSelfie

“What are you smiling at?” He asked. So I turned on the pouty face.

 

  10 Replies to “Cancer, vanity, and my really hot husband.”

  1. Jocelyn
    May 17, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    You know how I feel about grey! I keep thinking about a comment you made about your pre-cancer hair, how you wished you’d done it years ago, and I feel inspired to do something old. I don’t feel pretty with my grey and I get the hair thing you’re experiencing. Maybe tomorrow i’ll post a pic in solidarity.

    And Andrew WTF age already you have 3 kids Come ON

  2. Gwen
    May 17, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Melanie,
    I relate.
    Gwen

    • May 18, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Sadly, Gwen, I know you can. I think about you often when I am writing because you have been in this shitty position longer than I have.

  3. Maggie
    May 17, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    I love your captions and your honesty and your smile. Thank you. Your body may be weak right now, but you are very strong and very beautiful!

  4. mrsrazzo
    May 17, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Self image is a tough thing-it’s not a switch that can be just flipped to acceptance. I think we all have some degree of struggle with allowing our bodies to change without judgement. (does that make sense?) not getting enough sleep here! I can’t wait to see you again when you return from your travels. thinking of you all!!!

    • May 18, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      I think you have it exactly: it isn’t a switch that can be flipped – no matter how many times we try and convince ourselves otherwise.

      • May 24, 2016 at 11:13 am

        fake it til you make it is totally a thing though. I say this as a person who’s come to terms with my weird abdomen and the shadow above my upper lip.

  5. Juliet
    May 18, 2016 at 6:08 am

    So many lonesome ways we have to go around behind ourselves, gathering up pieces of who we were, or can’t return to. And then feeling so lost because the pieces of self we often have treasured most, no one else seems to have noticed were missing.

    The thing is, (and this is where I pretend to be wise) meanwhile, those we love are gathering beautiful things about us we don’t even see.

    I think you are beautiful. You will read that quickly, and probably it won’t sink in, but that’s okay, it is still true.

  6. May 18, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I love this post, and the complexity of what you’re trying to come to terms with and all the contradiction therein and it’s so true that loving our looks is ever a process no matter who we are. And I really appreciate your openness in sharing that process here. And acknowledgement too that while we think you’re beautiful, you don’t, and that doesn’t not matter. And the question too of how you looked a year ago and how those social media icon photos still belong to you, they still are you. These are things we all grapple with, but it’s all intensified in your situation. Anyway, what I think I mean is that I love all the questions you’re asking here and that it doesn’t really matter about the answers.

  7. Johanna
    May 22, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I know I can’t relate in certain ways…. I have never experienced what you are going through… But I went grey early… And bloody hated it… I have dyed my hair for many years now… But a few months ago I decided to let it go and be who I am in this moment… I’m still not liking it but I’m trying…. No selfies yet… And maybe not for some time to come… But we are who we are in this moment… And sometimes that’s all there is…..
    Hugs

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