I’ve experienced so much loss this last year. But amidst the rubble of my old life, I found
something far more precious than anything I actually lost: self-love. And I can tell you, I did
not expect that to happen.
I thought this ‘journey’ would be about scraping my armour together, hauling it onto my broken-but-determined back. Think Macbeth in Act 5. I am the first to be shocked that it has been a process of unpeeling, of stripping away. To reveal the armour. As soon as my head was shaved Dave said, this is your true self and you have never looked so beautiful. Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting that.
But I had found my armour. It was inside me all the time. Who knew? It was actually tucked
away inside many many layers of expectations, cultural norms, values, self-doubt – you name it, there’s a layer of it. And the armour – it wasn’t hard and shiny or unbreakable. It turned out be a soft and vulnerable, like a heart. Again. Who knew? I didn’t.
I waited for it. I imagined seeing destruction. Seeing a lesser version of someone I once was. Broken but bravely carrying on. That was how I thought it was going to be. I was prepared. But it did not come. I saw someone new; in so many ways I have left my old self behind. And I have nothing but love and respect for myself now. It makes me really sad that I didn’t have this level of self-worth before.
Photo credit Sarah Greer @Sarargreerphotography
I actually LOVED my shaved head. I loved how I loved it. I loved how I thought it would scare
and repulse me. But it didn’t. The key here was that when eventually I took the plunge to
shave my head, I was not the same person I was only a few months before, absolutely
horrified at the thought of having no hair.
For probably the first time in my adult life I was able to look beyond the physical. I loved
how it was a symbol. I couldn’t cover it up. It screamed to me about braveness and growth.
About believing in the YOU you are always growing into. They are stronger than you will
ever know. Trust them. Because you haven’t met your future self yet and if I’ve learnt
anything during this last year it’s this: you are changing and growing all the time, silently
sometimes. Believe me, these words – my own words - are needed now more than ever as I stumble through the effects of radiotherapy and try and pull myself back together.
I am different now in so many ways, and some of those hurt in ways you can’t know unless
you have felt them. But then, there’s the warm embrace I give myself every day when I get
dressed in front of my cream-painted wooden mirror, with its green leaves and tendrils
painted upon it, so delicately. Instead of critique and appraisal. Wish-lists. To-do lists.
Changes I must make. I value myself in a way I didn’t know how to do before my cancer
Standing in front of my cream-painted wooden mirror, with its green leaves and tendrils
painted upon it, so delicately, I feel like nourishing myself, not just getting dressed. I don’t put makeup now for any other purpose but to touch my face and enjoy it. In fact, since
using Skin Elixir for a year, I don’t need to wear makeup anymore. It’s subtle but life
changing at the same time. Not covering or hiding, or rushing or frowning at this or that. I
look deep into her new eyes in the mirror – with its delicately painted ivy leaves - and I say
to myself, well done.
I am sorry for looking and critiquing and touching you and sighing ‘well, if I only did a bit more…’ or ‘well, if I ran every day, then…’. I am sorry for stepping on scales and really caring about the numbers. I am sorry for seeing and treating you like the landscape. Losing parts of you and putting you through the physical ordeals of surgeries to witness the beauty and speed at which you knit yourself back together, takes my breath away. And it makes me sorry that I saw you as something to change, to fit into a pair of jeans. None of that matters. I think it’s a shame that it took something like this to change the way I feel about you. You have been so strong and I want to say thank you.