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In Episode 5 of the CafeMom Studios documentary webseries, It's Cancer, Baby, we talk about the experience of losing my hair and eyelashes to chemotherapy. Hair loss is actually a big part of the process of dealing with cancer, for men and women alike.
One of the things I did to help make the experience more bearable was throw a "Lash Bash" party, with a makeup artist friend giving us a lesson in false eyelash application. It was one of those "laugh instead of crying" moments. Rather than sit around and lament the loss of my hair and eyelashes, I decided to turn it into something fun and memorable. After all, having a bald face and head was (hopefully) going to be a temporary experience for me, so why not make the most of it?
That isn't to say that I didn't shed tears over my alien appearance. I did. And I still get startled occasionally when I catch my reflection in a mirror or window. But the baldness has in many ways become a part of me, just like the cancer diagnosis. These are all life changing experiences. Even after my hair comes back, I'm sure I'll never forget what it was like to be the bald girl, just like I'll never forget what it was like to be the awkward girl with the fish lips in high school.
I think we always carry those self-esteem shaping personas -- the fat kid, four eyes, metal mouth -- inside of us, no matter how we may later change and evolve. And that's part of what makes us who we are.
It's been a process, but I've learned to love all of my past iterations, no matter how gawky or dysfunctional. They've helped me become who I am today.
And I've learned to like this girl.
If you'd like to watch more of Joanna Montgomery's journey, subscribe to the CafeMom Studios YouTube Channel and you won't miss a thing.
Image via Brooke Kelly