I have been thinking a lot about self-care lately, and how to really do the things for myself that I need and deserve while going through radiation treatment. It seems like when it need to make the commitment to myself more than ever, it’s getting harder and harder to get it done.
After my 18th radiation treatment, I went to get my hair done. I have a lovely friend and hairstylist who lets me come to her house so she can be my Kitchen Beautician, thereby saving me her salon fee. It’s always a treat and feel refreshed and renewed when I’m done. And, and this is not of small import, pretty.
I realize that sounds trivial and silly. I’m fighting to prevent cancer from reoccurring in my body – you’d think the last thing I would be concerned about is my hair.
The thing is, I’m a self-identified High Femme. A big part of how I understand myself has to do with a heightened sense of traditional femininity. It’s important to me to get my hair done. It’s important to get pedicures and have my eyebrows waxed and maybe even get the occasional facial. Those things are a big deal to me on an on-going basis.
And right now, it seems more important than ever. Because the part of my body being treated is my breast, the number one outward marker of femininity. It’s already been surgically altered and will never look the same again. Now it’s being systematically burned. It doesn’t make me less of a woman, of course. It doesn’t even make me less of a lady. But it makes me feel less pretty. There – I said it. It makes me feel less pretty. I hate that I feel that way – I don’t want it to have that kind of hold on me. I don’t want to buy in to all the bullshit conventional standards of beauty. But I can’t help how I feel. And right now, I just don’t feel pretty.
I also feel exhausted. It’s getting harder and harder for me to get through a normal day, and I have found myself needing to cancel some evening sessions with clients. I have really tortured myself over those decisions; I value my clients so highly, really respect how difficult the work we do together is, and feel humbled and honored that they choose to do it with me. And I know they depend on me to show up for them. So it’s been its own kind of mental anguish for me to have to pick up the phone and tell them that I’m too tired, that I have to stay home and sleep. I feel like a failure. It’s natural, the fatigue I’m feeling, and I’m told it will only get worse before it gets better. It’s part of the treatment. But I still feel like a failure.
So how do I take care of myself in the midst of all of this? Sitting in my friend’s kitchen, getting my hair done, was a treat. Still, I can’t deny that it was all I could do to hold my head up high enough for her to do her job; I found myself wishing there was some way I could lie down while she colored my hair. I want, more than just about anything, to walk in to New Identities, my favorite nail salon, and get one of their amazing pedicures. But I have canceled enough client sessions that I can no longer afford that luxury. And forget about a massage.
I feel like I’m in God’s Little Acre: east of the rock, and west of the hard place. I know the things that make me feel cared for and pampered, that reinforce my femininity and beauty, that allow me to relax and feel a bit safer in my skin. But I don’t currently have access to those things. I am forever complimenting my clients for prioritizing their own self-care. And I pride myself on modeling that, be it in a gym or an acupuncturist’s studio. And right now, I’m too tired and too financially unstable to do much of any of it.
I just feel stuck right now. And like the fatigue of radiation treatment, I suspect it will get worse before it gets better.
But 18 of 30 treatments are done. And that’s something.