Thursday, April 2, 2009

In the Eye of the Beholder

I read my friend’s latest blog entry, which made it very clear just how much she hates having cancer—as if any of us would’ve doubted that. Obviously, that was a given; but I think it was still therapeutic for her to actually come right out in the open and spew a litany of specifics—everything from the color of her chemo drug entering her veins to the baldness on top of her head. I can remember reading one of her earlier blog postings—the one which focused on losing her hair—and finding such profoundness in her realization that she had been more upset after losing her hair than after learning she had lymphoma. And while that may surprise some at first, when I thought about it, I could understand what she was getting at. Naturally, her reaction made her question her own degree of vanity; but can we really fault her for being more upset about baldness than cancer? Or do they not really represent one and the same?

Anyone who knows my friend could tell you what I’m going to tell you, now: her hair looked great. It was gorgeous—long, dark, thick, and flowing, with waves just where you’d want them. I’m not a psychologist, but I’ve taken enough psychology courses to know that her self-image is firmly meshed with such a physically-identifying feature as her hair. And so, yes, I’m sure part of her emotional response was due the fact she feared not looking as good as she could to others, at least not on the outside. But, more so, I suspect her reaction—whether conscious or not—is because the baldness is a constant reminder that things are not right, for her, on the inside. Every time she looks in a mirror she’s forced to confront an image of herself that she, subconsciously, does not identify with, at all. By her nature, she is not weak, ill, or helpless. Thus, the incongruity is palpable, as it leaves her feeling unsettled in her most-forgiving moments—and, justifiably, angry, in her most-trying ones.

And that’s OKAY! What’s important for her to remember, throughout this ordeal, is that while she may look different on the outside, she still looks her same, old beautiful self to us.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for this post, linda. :) i don't know that my self-image was tied to my hair so much, but for sure what bothers me is that i had no control over losing it... and i have no control over when it comes back. but you're right about it being a visible indication of my illness, and yes that is upsetting... especially since really, it's the ONLY visible indication! if it weren't for the hair loss, probably no one would guess i was sick.

    so perhaps it's more a blow to my pride than my vanity... either way, maybe that's a good thing. ;)