My daughter, Sofia, still walks around unaware of her beauty. She is at that age where she thinks in fairy tale, yet, is on the cusp of walking through the playground of childlike consciousness… slipping gradually into her awareness of self.
I watch her as she absent mindedly smears on her sunscreen and note her creamy, unblemished skin.
I also can’t help but notice the difference of the texture as we, mother and daughter, stand side by side.
Since chemo, my skin surface is different…dryer and in need of constant lotion applications. The radiation has made changes to my neck as well. I tease myself out loud that I now know where the phrase “turtle neck” comes from. Oddly enough, it does not hurt my spirit to make fun. It actually makes me feel more powerful having the ability to see the humor. To own it.
Sofia, does not see my changes and retorts protectively that there is nothing turtle-like about me. I tease back and tell her that she is the turtle and to hurry up and get ready so we can get going and get her to her summer activity on time. We both return to the task of getting ready and the fleeting moment of self reflection goes as fast as it came. That is how it is for me, moments that come and go but do not weigh too heavily on me.
Other notable changes are that my skin burns more readily from the sun’s rays and thirsts for good quality moisturizing sunscreen. When taking my daily walks, if I forget to use sunscreen, my skin feels extra hot, sensitive and itchy. You can visibly see the blotchy dryness. All of which are new body changes this year.
It would be the honest thing to admit that my age feels like it has caught up with the numbers my birth has naturally assigned me to…those dates that I casually disregarded, denouncing their relevance with almost an arrogant dismissal for much of my adulthood. I now halfheartedly tell my friends, those that are my senior, I have earned my stripes early because my aging process was accelerated from the treatments I underwent and the circumstances forced me to think about things that I would have normally considered later in life. I say halfheartedly because, on one hand I mean it with my shifted mindset after the course of the last few years. Yet, on the other hand, I inately possess a youthful spirit that remains resilient and still shines bright! Thank God.
I am not ready to become an old woman at 45 years young. No, I am not. I shall buy vats of lotion and slather it on with wild abandon! That is, after checking there is no parabens! Okay, so cautious wild abandon – an oxymoron – yes, I know. Having/having had cancer creates that element of tension in the plot.
I think about my mother and the pills she had to take to help her fight off her mental captors that being bi-polar came with. She too underwent body and skin change, in her case, exacerbated by the meds. Although her physical changes kicked in more so when she was in her late 50′s and early 60′s. She would tell me she knew she had to take her pills, but confided in the next breath how she hated them all the same!
There is this internal tug-a-war on taking medication to combat your ailments and then there is the knowledge of the side effects. You have to make a choice and the choice that ultimately wins is the one that will keep you on the healthier side of the pendulum and/or the ones that simply extend your life.
All in all, I embrace my new body’s exterior – I don’t miss anything to the point of living in a void or harboring bitterness. I feel like I spent many years past feeling comfortable in my own skin and accept moving to the next level of maturity which focuses less on the exterior shell and more on the internal parts of life’s journey.
I know this will sound really odd, but… in the strangest of most wonderful ways, it’s quite freeing. Like a lizard shedding its skin.
“A comfortable old age is the reward of a well-spent youth. Instead of its bringing sad and melancholy prospects of decay, it would give us hopes of eternal youth in a better world.” ~Maurice Chevalier
“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” ~Unknown