80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:
Breast cancer is a strange creature. It strips you naked, knocks you down, and kicks you in the teeth. Your entire world turns upside down in an instant, and everything that was once comfortable and predictable becomes strange and subject to scrutiny.
You no longer take for granted that you can “just put it off until later”. Time takes on a new meaning. You feel simultaneously that there is some urgency both to getting on with the things you want to accomplish and to to letting go of the things that you have “put up with” even though they don’t really contribute to your life in a truly meaningful way. Call it an instant attitude adjustment.
So how in the world could something so disruptive, so disfiguring, and so callous in its utter disregard for its victims make you more beautiful? Certainly not in the traditional sense. My definition of beauty has never included a bright white bald head and either scars where my breasts used to be, or, looking to the near future, a slow progression of Frankenboob construction projects.
Yet, as I have meandered my way through the breast cancer jungle, some strange new revelations have appeared. I was at the chiropractor’s office two days ago, and he asked if this diagnosis has caused me to seek out new and exciting adventures that I might not have pursued otherwise. You know, “sky-diving, Rocky mountain climbing, going 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu”. Not exactly. I think that the key for me has been in not putting off things I had planned to do (like the Florida trip with my son) and savoring them more.
Then it occurred to me that I have noticed something completely unexpected and rather pleasant from this whole experience. I have always been fairly blessed in the looks department. I don’t take credit for it; I just have good genes. My mother is now 68, and people ask if she is my sister. She has always used her beauty to her advantage, and that’s the behavior she modeled to her daughters. I’m not a prissy girl by any means; I can camp with no bathrooms or showers. But, I have always been acutely aware of how I look and, as most attractive girls must admit, I have gotten a bit of a free ride.
As every last layer of my traditional “femininity” has been peeled away over the past few months, I have discovered a brand new girl hiding inside. I now find myself engaging on a deeper, more genuine level with people. I don’t know if I feel like I have to try a little harder because they aren’t drawn to my looks or if I just feel more vulnerable and open these days. But people are responding to me in a friendlier and more positive way. Don’t get me wrong. There are still days where I’m moody and don’t want to be bothered being “social”, but I feel more like an authentic version of myself than I ever have.
So….can breast cancer make you more beautiful? I think that the resounding answer would be “YES”. Once the artificial constraints of societal beauty have been forcefully abandoned, there is a kind of truth and peace that emerges within your raw being. You no longer have to conform to anyone else’s blueprint; you are free to find your own.