I have a much different definition of beauty now, after surviving breast cancer, chemotherapy, and a failed breast reconstruction attempt, than I did before my breast cancer diagnosis.
Before my diagnosis, I loved my long hair, and so did my oldest son, Ethan. Ironically, I had been growing my hair out to donate it to cancer patients so it was getting rather long. I’m happy to say that I was still able to donate my hair. But I was worried about how Ethan would deal with the loss of my hair, so prior to my first chemo appointment, I talked to a child psychologist. I mean, how do you explain cancer and chemo to a five year old? The child psychologist advised me to be honest with Ethan and explain to him that I am sick but I will be ok but the medicine I have to take will make my hair fall out. And she suggested that we make a party out of shaving my head. We invited friends and family over and my mom began cutting my hair. Poor Ethan! He cried and yelled, “Mommy’s not beautiful anymore!” My mom kept assuring him that I was still beautiful and always would be. My husband, Brian, also shaved his head and we asked Ethan if he wanted to shave his too, but he declined. He said his hair was too pretty to cut off! He does have nice hair, but I learned quickly that it is not the hair that makes a person beautiful.
One of the worse parts of chemo for me was the bone pain. My bones hurt so bad that I couldn’t sleep at night. To find some relief, I would soak in the bath tub. Brian would sit into the bathroom with me, in the soft glow of a night light. It would have been so romantic if I wasn’t bald, boobless, and bloated. I certainly didn’t feel beautiful, but to Brian, I was his beautiful wife.
When a woman has a bilateral mastectomy like I did, the next step is often reconstruction. For me, surviving breast cancer wasn’t as difficult as surviving a failed reconstruction attempt. Infection set in and I started having blood pressure issues. I was transported to a bigger hospital in Chicago in the middle of the night and things were touch and go for a while. My doctors told me I could try a reconstruction again after six months, but after all I had gone through, I decided reconstruction wasn’t for me. And Brian didn’t want me to have it done either. I decided I need to embrace the chest I have. Scars can be beautiful. I asked a friend who is a body artist to paint on my chest and I posed for topless pictures featuring my scars and her art. I nervously took a chance and posted these pictures on social media during October, breast cancer awareness month. The feedback was overwhelming. I was surprised at the number of people who praised my courage and called my photograph beautiful.
After my breast cancer diagnosis, I spent a lot of time reading and researching about all the chemicals that are in commonly used items, such as cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and food. Scary stuff! We are unaware of what is in the products we buy and we are unaware of safer alternatives. So I threw away EVERYTHING in my house that contained chemicals, and immediately stopped using deodorant and other skin products. While I was detoxifying my body, I didn’t know what alternatives there were to commercial health and beauty products. One day, my mom took me aside and told me that I stunk, literally! And on top of that, my face was an oily, acne mess. Was it possible, I thought, to be beautiful and chemical-free? I turned my research efforts to finding healthy, chemical-free alternatives that were as effective as the commercially made ones. I then began making my own chemical-free, aluminum-free, paraben-free deodorant and tweaking the recipe until I settled on a product that worked. This was really the start of what would become my business, Spero-Hope, LLC.
Please remember that this post is the opinion of the author and should not be replaced for actual medical advice or attention. Please learn more before making lifestyle changes yourself. Lacuna Loft supports healthy living, whether chemical-filled or chemical-free! Find what works best for you!