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The Person I Have to Impress at Chemotherapy

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When you must face the weathered look of chronic illness day in and day out, those fleeting glances in the mirror can become quite unpleasant. The dark circles, botchy rashes, medical devices and physical disfigurements act as a constant reminder of the life you’ve been unwillingly thrust into — a life drastically altered by new limitations and circumstances beyond your control.

I struggled with my unfamiliar reflection. Year after year I watched it change; I saw the features I’d become accustom to slowly disappear, heavily overcast by a permanent state of exhaustion.

At one point, I found myself too drained to apply even a small coat of makeup, too weak in my arms to perform simple tasks like drying my hair. I no longer saw a vibrant and well-groomed woman; my appearance weighed heavily on my typically happy, confident demeanor.

Self-confidence is an integral part of a every woman’s life — without it, we seem to slip into the background, hoping not to be recognized… even by ourselves. With appointment after appointment and a social life slipping away, I found even less reason to be bothered with the trouble of primping my appearance. After all, I had no one there to impress.

Or did I?

One day, I woke up in less of a fog before a morning appointment. I walked into my small bathroom across the hall and saw the painful reflection that acted as a reminder each day of the disease that ruled my life.

Suddenly I had a strong urge to see that woman again — the confidant woman who applied the perfect winged-tip eyeliner and a clean coat of red lipstick. With the extra energy I had, I slowly took out my makeup bag and began my old routine.

Staring back at me was someone I recognized, and her smile lit up the room.

I conquered that day with a renewed vigor — one I hadn’t felt in months. I walked with confidence past every mirror, with each glance I regained more of former myself.

I realize this all sounds horribly vain — that an appearance can’t possibly make someone truly feel “better.” But the reality is, when illness seizes your fragile existence and everything you’ve ever known is torn from you, a little boost of confidence is never selfish. Even the days when I feel awful, the days when I’m having procedure after procedure, seeing physician after physician — even during my many long rounds of chemotherapy, I can now look in the mirror and be reminded that the young vivacious woman is still in there somewhere.

Who did I need to impress? It turns out it was me.


This post originally appeared on The Day in the Life of a Tube Fed Wife.

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Originally published: May 12, 2015
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