Sunday, November 20, 2011

Life After Cancer

Originally I thought I would shut GuS after I was done with active treatment.  It's been almost five months since I had my last radiation appointment, and I'm very much struggling with life post-cancer.  I feel the need to blog again because it helped me a lot during treatment, and I'm hoping it will do the same post-cancerpalooza.

One of the main things I'm struggling with is self image.  It's been almost a year since my clown-red hair fell out.  Come Christmas, that will mark the one-year anniversary of the big bad bald.  My hair is probably two or three inches now.  While it looks great, I still don't like it and have this sense of disconnect when it comes to my appearance.  I have a hairdo that in a million years (pre-cancer), I never would have said to a stylist, "Make my hair look like this."  I still stare at the bright pink scar across my neck, and I swear, my skin just has a hint of greyish to it.

I've been coping with my self-image issues by a copious amounts of shopping.  Oh lord, I have gone absolute nuts with my shopping as of late.  I keep thinking to myself as I shop, "If I can't look the way I used to, then I'll create a new version of me."  My closet is full of shoes, boots and accessories.  I've donated all the Old Lara clothes that I could to Salvation Army.  Right now, I would call my style Hipster Business Casual, if that makes any sense.

Another reason my self-image is so messed up goes back to how I looked during chemo.  I spent six months bald, paler than I thought I ever could be in my life, all while wearing T-shirts and sweatpants.  It took at least six to eight months for my surgery to heal and my cancer boob to heal properly and align itself forward.  I wore baggy shirts and sweaters to hide my boobs when they were askew.  I have caught way too many people looking at my neck and giving me unnecessary looks and stares.  On the days I would even take a good look at myself in the mirror, I could just feel my self esteem go down the proverbial crapper.  I looked as shitty as I felt physically.

Whenever I go out now, I just put so much thought and focus into what I'm wearing.   In some situations, it can take me a good hour to get dressed, ready and out the door.  Old Lara and New Lara are two very different people.  Old Lara, who was a borderline What Not to Wear nominee, wouldn't give a second thought to wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt.   Not New Lara, no siree.  I can't leave without making sure my outfit looks put-together and hopefully chic.  I've read so many People Style and In-Style magazines.

Despite all this effort and insane amount of thought, I still struggle with how I feel about how I look.  Even though Old Lara was a plain Jane with not that much style, it was still how I looked for most of my entire adult life.  It was comforting and familiar, and now it's gone.  I had no choice.  I appreciate the compliments I've gotten on my hair in the last six months.  That hasn't taken away how much I miss the way I used to look.  I wish I could look in the mirror and not be reminded of seven rounds of chemotherapy (hair) and a painful surgery which hospitalized me for two days (neck).

I have other post-cancer topics to talk about.  This is just the first one on my mind due to my shopping gone wild.