Radiation…check. Ring bell…check!
It’s been a full week since I’ve finished radiation and I have been back to work for three days. Now back at work, It feels like the whole brain cancer thing was a bad dream (minus all the dad dates and family time). There was a knot in my stomach driving to work on my first day last week. I was afraid I made the wrong choice. Change is always scary before it happens even when it is anticipated. I was worried I would feel alone in my disease and over anxious.
So far, none of those feelings have come to fruition. I am finding it much easier than I anticipated to separate the last three months from the rest of my life. It is still very early and maybe I am still running on adrenaline, but I won’t question my contentment. This is a good feeling. Once I got over the headache of resetting all of my passwords at work it was like I never left. It is therapeutic to be in a helping role again and to be around my beloved coworkers. I feel like I am moving forward and much less of mind is overcome by the “what ifs”. Engaging in the process of helping others has always been the best way I’ve known to help myself.
Here’s what’s been hard. I miss my dad a lot (you too mom) and being around my family everyday.
And then there’s this…
I am struggling more with my self-image now that 1/4 of my head is bald and it’s summertime. I am thankful I am in a place where I can remind myself my image is not as important as it feels. That doesn’t mean that it never feels important. I am sharing this because it would be a lie not to. Too many of us are embarrassed to say it or we drown in it. This all or nothing mindset is not realistic or helpful. It is okay that sometimes self-love and a positive body image can be a constant fight. The truth is we are all being consciously or subconsciously judged by our image everyday. This impacts us. We have grown up in a society that teaches us to make judgement calls about each other based on how we look or present. Social media reminds us with photo shopped images, flattering angles, and painted on smiles how much better everyone else’s life seems just by how it looks in an instagram or on Facebook. Half the time we do not even know we are internalizing these messages and it takes time, strength, and energy to unlearn them. I am in a vulnerable space right now and I do not always have the energy to remind myself it is bullshit. Which means, while I cognitively know and whole heartedly believe that I am so much more than my image I do not always feel that way. Please do not respond to this post reminding me I am beautiful. I love you for wanting to, but please spare me (unless you are Jeff then you can remind away 😉 ). I am not looking for attention but rather I want to draw attention to this struggle. Body image and self-love pose challenges I imagine everyone goes through to some extent, but I am learning it is much harder when you get sick. The response of most health professionals and well intention-ed loved ones is to belittle the issue. Don’t do that. Just listen. Try to understand. It is okay if you don’t. Let hair be a big deal, validate the frustration with weight loss or weight gain, and empathize with unflattering surgery marks. Don’t decide what someone else’s silver-lining should be. You cannot possibly know. Let people express their pain none of us really want answers. We just want to be heard.