July 15th is a special day for me. It’s exactly one year since my last chemotherapy, and one year ago I was bald, gaunt, sick, exhausted - feeling anything but beautiful. One year on, when I look in the mirror, the person I was before cancer is gone and I struggle with getting used to who I am now. I have hair again - grey, curly, short. My body is puffy, a souvenir of steroids, and I have lines on my face that weren’t there just a couple years ago. There are other subtle losses, too - when my partner looks at me, his eyes don’t light up in delight the way they did the first time he saw me, because then I had beautiful long blonde hair, and was thinner, and had more energy than a hydroelectric power plant. For a long time, I’ve felt like I lost…. me.
Colbie Caillat’s song, Try, resonated with me - particularly at the 1:30 mark. It’s not about cancer, it’s about every woman being beautiful as themselves, without the make-up, the false lashes, the hair extensions. Without the unrealistic photoshopped beauty no one can ever live up to. And I’m learning to let go of what I used to be and recognise there are gains - my last blood test came back with as perfect a result as I could hope for, the cancer is gone. Every day that I can do something that I couldn’t do a week ago I celebrate, small victories have a special relish to them. And my partner looks at me now with an expression I didn’t see when we first met - with a relaxed, deep love that you only find over time.
So when I take my make up off, let what little hair I have down, take a breath and look into the mirror, at myself… I really don’t have to try so hard to like me.