Friday, 27 January 2012
I must have been washing my face when it happened. Making sure I got the eye shadow off. Or maybe it was just random – an eyelash dropping on my cheek or my pillow, wholly unnoticed by me. It’s not hard to imagine that. If you asked me the current color of my eyebrows or eyelashes, I’d have to say “transparent.” I retain about 50% of my eyebrows and I joke that I have seven eye lashes left. It could be more. It could be 14. At any rate, even finding them to apply mascara has become a game of Where’s Waldo. And my hair, what I can see of it, has turned white since having chemo - except for an odd diamond of gray, right at my widow’s peak.
When you’re diagnosed with cancer and you know treatment is going to make your hair fall out, it isn’t the worst of your concerns – but make no mistake, it’s on the list. And as you sink into the chemo swamp of depression your bald head & Pillsbury Dough Boy steroid face do nothing to increase your happiness. Friends cheer you on with “bald is beautiful” – and indeed it is. On Sinead O’Connor or Demi Moore. For me, it provokes images of women collaborators who were shaved bald after wars, or concentration camp victims. There is shame and fear attached to cancer. Your shaved head, at my age, is not mistaken for a political statement – people avert their eyes.
But catastrophes are always good learning experiences – like it or not. I surprised myself by choosing white/gray wigs, for instance. I tried on my preferred color, red, and was surprised that I didn’t like it. I tried blonde and brown and black and finally white. And I can’t decide whether it makes me look more my age or simply less like I’m trying too hard. I do know that I’ve finally done the very thing I raged against for years. I’m making the effort to age gracefully. I wear less makeup. I’ve given up high heels. And I feel pretty good about all that.
A male friend and I were discussing relationships the other day and he asked how I felt about them these days. I replied (cheerfully) “I’m bald and I don’t know how long I have to live, so it’s a moot point.” But that just leads me to another discovery – which is that I still like to look presentable for me – and for my friends (who panic a little when they drop in to discover I’m still in PJs at 4:00 p.m.)
I’m having fun learning to work around the appearance-catastrophes. And I find I’m hoping to have a lot more time to learn this growing-old-gracefully thing.