It’s weird. Really weird. I have never been someone who gets stared at a lot. I’ve been “normal” my whole life, and as much as I was convinced as a teenager that everyone was staring at my giant zit or the stain on my shirt, I now know that they weren’t. Then I grew up and dropped my insecurities and self-obsession. Or so I thought. As I was leaving the hospital after surgery, I quickly realized that I looked different. I sat in the wheelchair in Penn’s main lobby waiting for my mom to pull the car up, and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I was different. Everyone that walked past did a double take. I could see the people seated around me trying not to look or trying to get a quick glance in before I noticed. One lady walked in with her colleague, looked over at me then elbowed her friend who then looked over to see for herself. Keep in mind, I was about twice as swollen at that point (maybe more), hadn’t showered in 4 days, and was completely miserable. It probably was quite the spectacle! I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this in the past and I know that it is just human nature. I have probably even been Ms. Elbows a time or two in my life. I’m not mentioning this over surprise from other peoples’ reactions, but over surprise from my own reaction. I will never forget sitting there just wanting to scream “I just had surgery! I don’t always look like this!” I was desperate for someone to ask me about my story and not just assume all kinds of terrible things. I wanted to scream at these people who were so blatantly pitying me, “This isn’t my real face! I’m married…and my husband is hot!! So I couldn’t have been that bad before!” Haha looking back on those sentiments, I am disappointed in myself. I always told myself that I’m not vain and that my looks didn’t really matter to me. Obviously I was fooling myself. But the truth is, we don’t really know how we feel about things until we are tested. We love our spouses to the ends of the earth, as long as they haven’t done anything stupid or careless recently. We love and praise God as long as everything’s going great in life. We aren’t vain until our looks are compromised. That’s just life. I remember being scared to look into the mirror after surgery because I just didn’t want to know. Everyone I had contact with in the hospital was either a nurse assigned to me or a loved one who was visiting or a doctor checking my progress and everyone assured me I looked “great”. They weren’t lying either. In the hands of lesser surgeons, I shudder to think about what my face and neck might look like. The incisions looked awesome and the me that looked “great” was the me that they know and love, the same me that will still be there even if my face melts off completely.
Until this experience, I didn’t realize how important my looks were to me. Not that they were a high priority necessarily, but it’s how I knew myself. It’s how I indentified myself with the world around me and I felt like that was shaken. As I’m feeling better and getting out and about now, the stares don’t bother me as much but I also have the assurance that I will go back to what I used to look like, or at least close, within a few months. I don’t know how I would feel if there was the threat that these changes were permanent. I still feel that desperate urge to explain my condition to people and not let them think this is how I always am. Why? Why does it matter?! And my answer is less than profound – I don’t know.
I guess we all dress the way we do and present ourselves in a certain way so that the outside world knows where to categorize us. I was in the “young mother” area and I looked and acted the part. Now I feel like when I look at myself, I see “cancer patient”. Which, don’t me wrong, I obviously am and I accept that, but I just didn’t want it to define me. But at this point, I still need help with the kids and am exhausted all the time so whether I like it or not, this unwelcome intruder is a big part of my life right now. I look forward to the day when I can talk about my cancer journey in the past tense. Until then, I will keep taking it day by day, test by test, and doctor by doctor.
I thought I would go ahead and post a pic of my face so that those of you who may not see me coming up soon can see what it looks like to have a giant chunk of your thigh in your face. This will never not freak me out lol. Dr says swelling should go down in a few months.
I made sure to keep it far enough away so that people with weak stomachs don’t have to see any scars or anything and to smile so you can see how my facial nerve still isn’t working quite right on my right side. All of this should be back to “normal” in a few months. Whatever that means.
There’s not too much to update health-wise today. We met with the neurosurgeon yesterday and – praise the Lord! – she thinks that the anneurysm it’s so small that it will never be an issue or pose a problem. My only limitations are that I can’t ever skydive or scubadive. Those of you that know me and my love of safety know that that will not be an issue for me. I will just have to get an MRA yearly to check it. I can deal with that. Tomorrow I (hopefully) get the drain out of my leg and will see the radiation oncologist who will set up my treatments. Will let you guys know how it goes!