To continue my list of 100 reasons why I'm thankful I was diagnosed with breast cancer I'd like to mention some of the little things that I appreciate so much more now. And although they're little things, they are important to me.
16. I appreciate my eyelashes and eyebrows
I think I've mentioned before (!) that when I was diagnosed with cancer I was incredibly anxious about losing my hair. But it turns out what transforms you into Generic Cancer Patient is the loss of eyebrows and eyelashes. I learned how to fake them with makeup (see next point), but that only works when your makeup is on. When you first wake up in the morning, or when you're at home or in hospital and too ill or tired to create a face by trowelling on makeup, then every time you look in the mirror you see Cancer. When you're feeling at your best it's depressing. When you're feeling at your worst it leaves you screaming and sobbing at your horrible, ugly face in the mirror. One of the worst memories of cancer that will never leave me is the image of my screaming, sobbing cancer face in the mirror one morning towards the end of last year.
My eyelashes and eyebrows have now grown back. I love them so much. Before cancer, when I'd look at myself without makeup on I thought I looked AWFUL. Not any more. Even if I look a bit tired or washed out, I know now I still look normal. I have all the things on my face that should be on my face. I don't look like a cancer patient.
17. I appreciate makeup
To follow on from the last point.... I was never very good with makeup and never wore much. I didn't know how to do it properly so I didn't bother with much more than powder, eyeliner and mascara. I remember going to the Benefit counter in town when my eyebrows first started to disappear and got the makeup artist to do my eyebrows for me (before I spent a fortune on Browzings). I looked like a twat. The plain face of someone who looked like they'd be most at home in a quiet bookshop suddenly had dark, striking, glamorous eyebrows that belonged on... well, someone striking and glamorous! They were not me! But sooner after that I attended a Look Good Feel Better makeup workshop at the hospital and learned how to fake eyebrows in a much more low key and natural way. And at that session, and from watching my friend Andrea's incredible makeup tutorials I learned lots of other tips too. I'm sure I'll still be lazy with makeup - I kind of think less is generally better cos then you can just get on with having fun without worrying whether your makeup's still ok... but sometimes, when you want to do it nicely, it's really nice to know how. And... if I am ever a cancer patient again, at least I'll know from the start how to hide it a bit better.
18. I appreciate taste
I took taste for granted. Big, bad Tax chemo (the one that did a bloody good job of murdering so much of my cancer) takes your sense of taste away for a while (replacing it with what is officially known as Tax Mouth, and in my case, a nice bout of oral thrush each time).
Before cancer and chemo I thought the tea at work tasted bad. Now I know just HOW BAD tea can taste, and what a disappointment it is when you can't taste your tea at all. (Not that I'm now going to drink the tea at work, I just accept that it could be worse. And I appreciate the cuppas I have at home a million times more now.) Taste is wonderful. I'll try and remember this and not just inhale my food absentmindedly while concentrating entirely on something else.
19. I appreciate my walk in to work
I'm not a morning person, hence, my morning walks in to work have always generally consisted of me leaving the house late and in a bit of a flap,marching as quickly as my legs will move without actually running. Google maps says my walk to work is 31 minutes, I normally do it in 25, my record is 18.5. This rushed walk (slightly different routes depending on where I've been working) has been a part of my daily weekday routine for over 10 years. Cancer (chemo and surgery) took it away from me for a while and I missed it more than I would ever have guessed. Since I've been back at work, the sun has shone every time I've walked in. I don't think that's because it's Spring. I think that's because the Universe realises how much I appreciate the walk to work (the normality, the exercise, feeling fresh air on my face, being a part of the constantly moving and changing outside world) and has organised for the sun to shine down on me each time I go out. Having said that...
20. I appreciate the rain
I remember when my mom was in hospital the week she died. It soon became clear that she would never again leave the hospital bed. I remember looking out of the hospital window at the rain, and thinking how sad it was that she would never feel the rain again. From that moment on I had a new appreciation for rain. This has only intensified since being diagnosed with cancer myself. The rain is amazing and the rain reminds you that you're alive. The way it feels, the way it smells, the way it sounds. I love the rain, and honestly think people should spend more time with their wellies and raincoats on, splashing about in the puddles. Let go a little, have a bit of fun.
I'll leave it there for now ...