As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was blaring on the radio. We were driving down to Canton to try out a new seafood restaurant. It had been six years since my first bout of breast cancer, and in those six years, I don't remember looking really smashing. I had either lost my hair or was dealing with depression or was a sickening greenish color because of chemo or was approximately 25 pounds over my normal weight because I'd used food to comfort myself during my illness. But in the last four months, I had lost weight – 23 pounds to be specific –and for once in a long, long time, I felt pretty. My face and body weren't bloated. I had done my hair and make-up just right. I was sporting a brand new little black dress. I was back, folks. I was pretty again.
We got to the restaurant, and there was a long wait for a table. Word was out; this place was the place to be, to see and be seen. I noticed people, particularly women, looking at me, kind of checking me out. Women do that to each other. If a female looks particularly nice, other women acknowledge it with furtive glances. Oh, I loved being the object of positive attention. When you don't have any hair, for example, people look at you with sad eyes. But currently, all eyes were energetic and were on me. I was the it girl. Or at least, I thought so.
At 54, I was hardly a young thing, but maturity did bring its pluses. I'd been around the block, had paid my dues. And it showed. I was self-confident. I had earned the right to stand out, to be beautiful. I was a survivor, damn it.
It took about 45 minutes to get a table, but when we did finally sit down, and they brought some bread, I took very small nibbles. I didn't want to make a wrong move.
I was Grace Kelly.
And it was only going to get better. It was my plan to lose 20 more pounds, at least. Then, at that weight, I'd be back in the shape I was when I met my husband back in 1994. This year, I was turning 55. At this age, I'd receive my senior citizen card, which in Ohio is called the Golden Buckeye card. With it, I could get discounts on food and coffee and could get the senior discount at the thrift store (that’s the best part, believe it or not, about turning 55). I didn't want to enter my senior years chubby. That's why I'd begun my weight loss journey several months ago.
What can I say? It is sooo good to be nice-looking again. Cancer laid me low for a while – six years to be precise, but I wasn't going to stay in the place it had put me.
Perhaps what I gained from the cancer experience is inner strength. Perhaps this is what I'm viewing when I look in the mirror. Perhaps the loss of a few pounds is simply the icing on the cake.
Whatever it is, I feel pretty again!
If you've suffered through cancer and you're not feeling particularly beautiful, try to do something about it. You will feel better if you look better. Get a new haircut. Buy a new shade of eye shadow. Experiment with those brow products that everyone is wearing. Lose the cancer weight.
You, too, can be pretty again. You can feel like your old self; in fact, you can feel even better than your old self.
You are a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.
You are the most beautiful woman in the room.