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My View: Reclaiming yourself is important after chemo

By Carol Preisler

I pondered applying mascara to my five eyelashes. Some days I tried  but mostly failed.  Wiped it off and moved on.  The process of losing my hair was a little more daunting.  Last mother’s day my husband shaved my head.  My doctor had previously advised a short haircut prior to chemo.  I found a local beautician who gave me a short fantasy haircut to start.  It looked smashing, to me anyway, for about 2 weeks.  Then it all started to wisp away.   It was time to zip it off.

It is slowly growing back.  My eyelashes are long enough to wear my beloved mascara.  This meant so much to me and I wondered why.  Simply, my eyes feel like a window into my soul.   I prefer looking directly into someone else’s.  When they were barren I shied away from contact.  I felt my entire face looked sadly ill.  And, it truly did.  And so I waited.

The lead coat I had been wearing dropped to the floor a few months ago. I pushed it aside with my foot and put on a lighter wrap.  At least I have for now.  Moving on is important when you feel you have no true control over your life. It’s important to take back who you were, along with the new you.

On the first Monday after chemo ended, I cleaned my son’s house.  Still a bit weak it was refreshing.   I remembered his spring cleaning never happened.  The kitties enjoyed having their grandma around for a few hours.   My boy loves the scent of pine cleaner. It’s a mom and single guy thing.  The next few Mondays I did the same and alternated with my other son’s home. Growing stronger each week it felt great to be useful.  I had missed these ordinary parts of life.  Months on the couch made cleaning a glamorous adventure.  Except at my own home!

Without being cliche, life really is good.  I have known this for a long time. After a health issue five years ago I wondered what the message was.  I felt I was an appreciative person.  With this new challenge I wondered once again.  I believe I understand what I was supposed to learn.

Greater compassion if that is possible.  I hold more people in my heart than ever before.  I wonder how they are.  I pray for them.  Do I dare hope to see them as I visit our source of treatment?    Many hours are spent with complete strangers, mostly in silence but hearts joined.  Thinking about them when I am not there is heavy. Perhaps it’s a bit of guilt that I can be home right now.  However, life is fluid.

There are a few lessons in all of this.  I hug my dog even more, even if he squiggles.  He lets me rub his tummy and bears all my kisses.  He wakes me up each morning and closes his eyes with mine.  He is getting old too and we make a handsome pair with our white hair.

I have become fond of hats versus hair replacements.  I’ve earned a new wardrobe after losing weight.  That has been fun.  I enjoy smaller jeans, even though I am probably well past jean age.  Tights and leggings have become favorites as well.  This side of my experience has been light and fun.

Going through challenges throughout our lives can render new perspectives.  I believe at heart I am the same person.  Life’s sadness resonates a little stronger.  Separating conflicting emotions becomes a daily chore.  But ultimately life is quite often really good.

Carol Preisler says life remains good, even in the aftermath of chemotherapy.



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