Cancer and Body Image

When you think of someone with cancer, you most likely think a few things: pale, bald, wasting away. When someone doesn’t fit into that mold, life gets a little tricky.

Sometimes I wish my hair fell out. I feel really obnoxious even saying that – many women would love to have made it through treatment with as much hair as I still have. Still, I feel like if I was somehow iconic of what people *think* I should look like, I wouldn’t get the stares and comments when I have to drag myself up the stairs out of the subway or walk super slowly trying to keep my balance on the sidewalk. The bald hair and scarf is so emblematic. No one thinks to question it.
In reality, I know if I had to wear a scarf, I would hate the attention it drew to me. Basically, I can’t win. Cancer is a total bitch.

The fact is, I push myself too hard. I know where my limits are. They make a fun noise as they go whooshing past.

I often find myself unable to make it up the 2 flights of stairs to my apartment without some serious recovery time afterward. After a long day at work, much of my energy is tapped. Throw in grocery shopping and errands and a stubborn streak, and you find me in a very difficult position.

A few weeks ago, I had to use the electric cart at the grocery store for the first time. You know, the kind that morbidly obese women tend to ride in. I am self conscious about the 20 pounds that steroids, inactivity, and eating whatever I feel like I can on a given day (read: ice cream) have put on me, and riding around in a scooter only makes it worse.

Body image isn’t just the paleness, the extra weight, the ridiculously visible scars (thanks bleomycin!), or thinning, short hair. Not being able to physically do what I could do months ago plays right into how I feel about my body image. I tried to do a Netflix aerobics video I used to be able to do on hard- now I’m gasping for breath on the easy. I find myself a little nervous when I go out and I’m not constantly close enough to escape to the T or my car if need be. I wouldn’t be happy with the weight gain if I could still walk a few miles, but I would certainly be happier and feel better.

I remember saying at the beginning that I was going to make a promise to myself to do my makeup every morning. Sleep seems more important now. I’m glad I got my priorities a little straighter.



Posted in Personal Stuff
3 comments on “Cancer and Body Image
  1. Aaron says:

    Keep it up Allie. You have my support.

  2. wowmeatball says:

    Thanks for sharing, Allie! Your posts are helping me deal with my friend’s illness, and her experiences with cancer imaging and the painful treatments. Also, I have a good impression about UCSF Radiology service. It was really nice.

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