I struggled horribly with this emotion in my teenage years. It was my worst enemy. Every girl I saw was prettier than me, smarter than me, funnier than me, thinner than me. I just couldn’t “compete” in the popularity game, thus, planting the seed of self doubt. I did everything I could to make myself more tolerable to my peers, hoping I would be accepted warmly instead of ignored. I tried out for cheerleading and failed miserably because, a) I sucked and, b) I knew who the competition was and they were a tight group with sisters/brothers in the upper grades who were royalty where high school circles and proms were concerned. I remember walking out of that gym past the other girls knowing I had just humiliated myself. I also remember being somewhat relieved that I hadn’t made it because I was pretty sure my thighs would look fat in those cute uniforms. I decided then and there that I may suck at cheering, but I did have control over what I put in my mouth and what I weighed. From that point on I quickly developed a very bad habit of skipping breakfast, drinking only orange juice for lunch and as little as I could get away with for dinner. Before I knew it, I could see all of my bones. Mission accomplished. Or was it? I still needed braces and I still felt “lesser than” to the other girls around me. I still wasn’t popular, I still wasn’t smarter (looking back, less so), and I wasn’t prettier or funnier either. Major fail, but at least, in my precious, warped, teenaged mind, it wasn’t a chunky fail, it was a skinny fail.
Thankfully, as I grew older and matured, all of this jealousy just disappeared as my confidence grew. With age and marriage and children, I’d never felt more beautiful and I truly believed what I preached to my children, “Beauty is what is within your heart.” I felt beautiful inside and out. I felt like a woman.
Cancer has robbed me of many things, but lately I’ve noticed that it has stolen yet another thing from me: My feminine confidence. I’ve been propelled back into that teenage world of jealousy and envy. I’m envious of beautiful women. I envy their hair. I’m jealous of their health and vitality. I’m jealous of their confidence to step out of the house and go about their day with all of the confidence in the world. Where eye contact used to be a strong point for me, I now find myself with downcast eyes, embarassed by the fatigue they may show or my story they may tell. I constantly wonder if the hairline of my wig needs to be adjusted and try to remember how it felt to run my fingers through my hair. People often say, “Hair is just hair. It will grow back.” I’m here to tell you that, no, it’s no “just hair”, and, no, sometimes it will not grow back. I never gave any thought to it, as most women do not, but hair is a very big way to express and feel our femininity. In my case, the radiation was aimed directly at my right frontal lobe and the tumor was bombarded. I was told there was a chance that hair may never grow back in that area again. That radiation was 9 months ago and there is no sign of growth. How can you feel confident and attractive wearing a mask wherever you go because your white cells are so low that if you get the flu you will die?
I read this morning that Miranda Kerr, she of the Victoria’s Secret catwalk, magazines, etc., has been photoshopping her own pictures on Instagram. She has gorgeous hair and a body to. die. for. (no pun intended), and. to my knowledge, she does not have cancer. If Miranda Kerr doesn’t feel attractive in her own skin, imagine how I must feel. More so, imagine what this says to all of those self-doubting teenagers struggling to accept themselves and love themselves just the way they are.
Looking back now, I’m proud of that insecure girl for holding her head up, walking in that door for cheerleading tryouts, self doubt and all and just trying. That’s how I choose to live my life, no matter what. Just try.