A Sense of Worth

I grew up in the time where children were seen and not heard. We could never ever interrupt an adult’s conversation. If our parents weren’t around to discipline us then the adults in the village could. I was such a shy child and it didn’t help that my mother favored my brother. I was always held responsible or everything that happened. If my brother did something wrong, then I was disciplined because I was older and I should know better.

Struggling through the teenage years as a very shy, blossoming girl was not easy. My friends were all the cast offs. No one else wanted them in their social group because we were either very intellectual or “different”. I watched all the girls around me go out on dates. I went out on a couple maybe throughout high school. But I felt very much like a wallflower. I became very withdrawn. Then I started dating this young man. I should have walked away from him. But I felt that no one wanted me and this would be the best I could do.

I don’t know where those feelings came from. Perhaps knowing my mother favored my brother. I could have been a rebel but I just seemed to whither and take what I was given. I married this young man who was placed on a pedestal and worshiped by his parents. He is narcissistic. He always talked about himself. I would question his plans for the future because he only talked about himself and didn’t include me. I still don’t know why I didn’t walk away. I just felt like this is all I deserved and no one would ever want me. I endured that marriage for more than 30 years before I decided to not live in constant fear and anxiety.

Developing breast cancer when I did was surreal. It wasn’t happening to me. This is just something that will pass. I made the decision to have a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy. The outcomes were equal for either procedure. But having strangers view your breasts and having a surgery that, basically, deforms your breast and having four lymph nodes removed has now left me with no feeling in a small area of my armpit.

Then seeing your hair slowly drop from your scalp, wondering if that was a mouse at the shower drain, is heart wrenching. Why is it that men prefer long hair on women? What is it about the length? I had none. Everyone told me it would come back and be different. Mine didn’t. It was the same thin gray hair I had before the chemo. And even though I have beaten cancer, I am still on estrogen suppressing medication that is now thinning out the hair that came back. I listen to those people complaining about not being able to go to a hairdresser. Open up the state again because I need a hair cut. Another stab at my heart and my sense of self worth.

Or how about those that are having hissy fits to have a manicure or pedicure. The chemo drug, Taxol, can do a number on your fingernails and toenails. Fortunately, my fingernails were spared but it did a terrible number on my toenails. My big toenails ended up being severely deformed. The podiatrist said none of my toenails would be normal again but the big toenails would probably cause me pain. So I made the decision to have them removed permanently. With that decision, I was too frightened to go to a nail salon until my oldest daughter took me. My sense of joy and relief at having my feet done was so overpowering that I cried. My feet will never look normal but I had 8 painted toenails that looked pretty. Be grateful that you have ten toenails. Oh, and I should mention that the drug, Taxol, has given me neuropathy in my toes. At first it was my whole foot but it is just in my toes now.

So breast cancer not only attacked my breast, but my whole body. My sense of worth as a woman is gone. I do not feel attractive or desirable. Words do nothing to get my self esteem back. The estrogen suppressing medication also has the side effect of weight gain. Now I am battling weight gain not only because of the pandemic but my medication. How do I get my self esteem back? I’m not sure since I am battling demons that have bitten and pulled and scratched at me my whole life. Yes, I beat breast cancer. But it is something that is a part of my life. I am allowed to feel sadness, anger, and fear. People just want me to bury those feelings and continue on with life. I am allowed my feelings and I need to be able to deal with them before I can move forward. Cancer patients just want to be heard or just have someone sit with them while they breathe in life again. But we are allowed to grieve and we are allowed our feelings.

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