I’m not fond of dwelling on my cancer journey, but I feel God is asking me to talk about my life during that time. Maybe in the event it may help someone else during their struggle. Only He knows the reason.
I knew it was coming. The tests. The waiting. The non-specific language and careful wording with each examination. I suffered my first and only (to this point) anxiety attack on June 15, 2017; Diagnosis Day.
What soon followed was the degrading self-talk. Shame. Unworthiness. Disgust and loathing. Just a small sampling of hideous and (sometimes) self-inflicted emotional trauma. Not to mention the utter physical devastation.
Diagnosis Day. The day the lies began.
I repeatedly reminded myself throughout the ENTIRE process I was going to be okay. I believed my doctor when he told me:
- “It’s the most common type of cancer.”
- “We know exactly how to treat this.”
- “This is just a bump in the road.”
The lies were my own. And embarrassingly, they began on a superficial level.
I was going to lose all my hair.
You see, I was proud of my long, pretty hair. I maintained it well and over the years it had morphed into a self-identifying trait and feature that I nurtured.
I was losing all.of.it. My security blanket, gone.
Bald. Ugly. Sick. Weak. Powerless. Oh, the unrelenting lies.
Mentally resigning myself to a dark, dismal upcoming year, X took me for a haircut. Deciding to take the loss in stages, I cried throughout the appointment as chunk after chunk of my locks hit the floor.
A simultaneous shedding of skin and crawling into my new cocoon. I had no idea who this new creature was or would become. Certainly no longer the person I believed myself to be.
Yet, roughly two weeks later, the first of several empowering moments. After the chemo had begun to wreak its poisonous havoc on my body and I awoke to find my pillowcase carpeted with the first dead and accursed strands, X (at my insistence) purchased a good set of clippers. It was time.
That night, standing alone in front of the spare bathroom mirror, staring at the body that was no longer mine, I shaved my head.
Right up the middle, G.I. Jane-style.
Although I didn’t go on to complete one-armed pushups or sport rock-hard abs, I had never felt more like a badass. Even if it was just in that moment, it was enough. It helped push me forward while the infrastructure of my life crumbled.
- “You rock the bald look!”
- “You’re so beautiful!”
- “You’re so brave!”
Compliments and encouraging words offered in complete sincerity and love, of which I will be forever grateful. They provided a much-needed, if only momentary, positivity injection. And in what was now my parallel and diametrically-opposed existence, my Upside-Down, I couldn’t be: Weak. Sad. Tired. Hurt. Confused.
I was a: Warrior. Survivor. Champion. Example.
Silently suffering a season of anguish, despair and utter loneliness.
And I was so lonely.
Loneliness is haunting. Hollow.
Fake it till you make it. Dress the part. Look good on the outside and you’ll begin to feel better on the inside. I couldn’t even do that much.
Wrap my smooth, bald head? Check.
Cover-up for the dark circles and inevitable tear-stained cheeks during my morning commute? Check.
Confidence –> nope. Bravery –> nope. Fulfillment –> nope.
I know now this was a mountain only for me. God walked me to it so He could help me move it.
But during that time? A ghastly black and desolate landscape.