Breast cancer lesson number 73: Cancer strips away the things we think define us and, in so doing, shows us who we really are

It seems rather appropriate that, while everyone is chomping on the last of their Easter chocolate, my head should start to resemble that of a spring chicken.

Since the number two head shave, the darkish brown (even the odd black) spiky strands have disappeared, only to be replaced by what I can only describe as a bit of blonde baby fluff and a lot of baldness. It’s not shiny, I now have less hair than all the babies I have met in the last few weeks (I just wish they could talk so we could share tips) and Duncan still insists I move seamlessly from the sleep cap to the day headwear, so he doesn’t have to experience the ‘ill look’ too often. For him, it makes my invisible illness visible. For me, it’s a sign the drugs are working.

With the quickest haircare routine ever, I am still finding the whole hairloss side of treatment quite liberating. So, I have decided it is perfect timing to share my no make-up selfie with the world. I appreciate I am about a month or so behind, but having already donated a good few pounds to breast cancer charities recently, I didn’t really feel the need to yank on my hair to speed up the process. This, for me, is the true face of cancer. It can’t be masked with make-up. It’s a face that suggests that I’m fighting, but that won’t ever give away quite how much. It’s a face that looks well, but, in truth, it’s not a face I ever thought I’d see (especially not in my early 30s).

Image

I am lucky in that I have never been defined by my looks. I am also lucky in many ways that cancer has chosen to give me a glimpse of a life without hair to show me just how little any of this image stuff really matters. I never thought I’d say this, but I am more comfortable in my own skin now that I can see a lot more of it.

Throughout my childhood, I was teased for having the wrong straw-like hair, the wrong complexion, the wrong waist and hip measurements and a raised birthmark on my neck that made people point and stare. I felt out of place in my gym kit, out of place in my leotard or swimming costume and without a real place in life. I used to envy all the girls with their beautifully braided hair, flat stomachs, fashionable clothes and string of admirers. I used to dream of waking up as someone people would want to be. Now, I couldn’t dream of being anyone else.

Strange as it may seem, cancer has made me take one long hard look in the mirror and come away smiling. Cancer strips away the things we think define us and, in so doing, shows us who we really are. Cancer hasn’t made me stronger or happier, but it has let me see just how strong and happy I really am.

I no longer search for beauty in a perfectly-styled hairdo or glossy lips. I look for beauty behind the eyes. Anyone can paint on a vision of happiness or hide away under a layer of foundation. But beautiful people can laugh and smile without seeking the reassurance of others or the support that comes with a brightly-coloured lipstick.

So maybe, just maybe, you might like to ditch the make-up on more than one occasion this year. You don’t have to post it on Facebook and you don’t have to donate money every time you leave the mascara at home. But, you might just surprise yourself and discover that your real beauty doesn’t come from a tube of tinted moisturiser. It’s been there all along waiting for you to stop covering it up.

Thank you cancer, for making me feel beautiful. And, I hope that by reading this, you might learn to love the skin you’re in – hairless or otherwise!

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