Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Cancer Fashion Guidebook

A girlfriend of mine hosted a middle eastern themed afternoon party yesterday. We all gathered outside under a tent, ate middle eastern nibbles, listened to some live sitar music and drumming, drank tea and wine, and generally lounged about on many piles of cushions. Everyone was dressed in saris, salwar kameez or middle eastern tunics. It was a extraordinarily lovely party. And I always love an excuse to dress to a theme, any theme. It's not so much that I'm just into costumes; I like the challenge of playing with fashion and dressing outside the ordinary. The outside the ordinary is really the significant part.

I finally settled into my personal fashion sense a few years ago. I don't know how to describe it, but the lines are very classic mid-20th century, everything is just so, and I like to throw a twist in there through patterns or accessories. Most of the comments I get are that I always look so "put together." And I haven't deviated from my fashion sense this year. As a matter of fact I now actually work that much harder at it when I'm going out and about, especially for doctor's appointments or chemo. One of my best friends (and summer chauffeur) told me that she thought it was really terrific that I didn't give up on style when it would have been so easy to do so. I could show up for chemo in yoga pants and a hoodie, or versions of pajamas. But instead I look put together and fashionable and/or professional. The thing is, there is so much about having cancer that challenges the way you look at yourself. Or actually changes the way you look. Keeping up outside appearances helps me feel somewhat (or a lot) better. And I already spend enough time at home lounging in pjs.

I remember walking, or rather shuffling, through the hospital maybe five weeks post surgery for an appointment. I couldn't walk so well yet and it likely would have been obvious to anyone watching that I was the one there for some reason. But I was in a cute summer dress and trying my best to just walk slowly and not bent over or too shuffle-y. I looked at my husband and said that even though it might be clear, I didn't want to look like a sick person. And that is the key right there. I refuse, in any way, to give in to this situation. And though keeping a sense of style might not seem like a defiant act, for me it certainly is. I relish the look of surprise on strangers' faces when they realize I'm the one with the appointment, that I'm not waiting for a patient. Some of the nurses at the cancer center have taken to calling me 'super model' because I'm always dressed up well for chemo days.

There is not a lot that I can control in this fight. Weeks and months can go by before I get answers to questions, or know the state of my disease and how it's reacting to treatment. I can rest, I can take care of the rest of my body, and I can try to keep myself mentally stable and emotionally content. But really, I just show up when I'm supposed to and go through what my medical team has decided is best. It is challenging and frustrating, and finding stability in the center of it all can be hard. But I have a goal, to again be a normal, healthy person. That's a theme to which I can dress. So here is me, a rebel in peep-toes.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny, I've been 'dressing the way I want' for years, in a large part because as 'Migraine Girl' I've spent a large part of my life (especially during collage) in PJs... or clothing that felt good against my skin on the really bad days. I have been wearing what I feel like, for so long that I am sometimes surprised when people comment on how 'dressed up' I may be... sometimes I just like to wear things that make me feel nice...

    Go you. :)