Monday, November 29, 2010

I Feel Bad About my Neck

Yes, I know that’s the title of Nora Ephron’s 2006 essay collection and the subject of its first essay.

I borrowed it because I too feel bad about my neck, and about my face. Not because of the changes that come with age, but because of the changes that came from chemo.

Let me say that like many women, I look at myself much too closely in the mirror. In the morning I get about an inch away and study the flaws. Then I do it again in the evening. Why? Do I think that much has changed? There is an easy solution: Back off from the mirror.

My neck has actually fared pretty well when it comes to ordinary signs of aging. And my face looks a lot better now that I have decreased the prednisone and lost the chipmunk look. The problem is that my neck, and my face too, have brown spots that look like large freckles or age spots, but they are neither. They are from the chemo. On my neck I have a larger splotch where a tube went in.

My nose is a little red and sometimes has small blisters due to the effects of sunshine on skin made fragile from chemo. And because of the prednisone, I have some extra facial hair around my sideburns.

Now from this description I sound like a real mess, but I’ve been told that I’m exaggerating. My high school friend Nancy said that after recently spending a weekend with me in New York, she didn’t notice any of it…except for the good changes.

This all came to mind when I was getting dressed to meet a friend who hadn’t seen me for ages. Feeling self-conscious and anxious about exiting my “comfort zone,” I wondered if I should wear one of my mock turtlenecks to cover part of my neck.

The other choice was a scoop-neck that I like a lot. I could wear it plain or wear a scarf to hide the blemishes.

In the end, I chose the scoop-neck – without a scarf. I just wore a small necklace.

“What the heck,” I figured. “I am what I am, and I’m not going to hide it.”

I’ve been through this drill before, but that doesn’t make it easier. I think that sometimes after cancer when you start getting out more, you feel like you have a big “C” across your face. Even if you did, so what? It’s not like you did anything wrong. But still, you can feel displaced socially.

In the end, my friend didn’t seem to even notice. The get-together was more about good conversation, good coffee, and – especially important – luscious strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream frosting.


Susan C said...

When it comes to diminishing brains and beauty, I'm always wondering how much can be chalked up to chemo and how much to post-menopausal aging.

Nora Ephron's latest book of essays, by the way, deals with the fading brain.

Ann said...

I think we can all relate to this. I have a TJ liver biopsy scar that looks like a small navel at the junction of my neck and collar bone, in addition to the chemo freckles and other scars. I generally forget that they're there until I catch someone staring or I'm caught off guard looking in a mirror. Don't sweat it. I know it's more obvious to us because we've had to live through it. You look fabulous in all of your pictures and you're here writing wonderful pieces, which is the most important thing of all.

Nelle said...

I have some brown spots on my face which I have been told are radiation damage. I can't cover them or have them removed and one dr. suggested he could experiment with a chemical peel and see what happened? HMMMMM NO!!! I wear foundation and powder daily now. My neck has wrinkles and my weight loss last year shows it even more. Each time I start to feel bad I remind myself: I am lucky to have each day that I do and then I step away from the mirror.

Julie Goodale said...

OMG, this clearly resonates with lots of us! I've been noticing the brown blotches on my face lately. They've been there a while, but suddenly I'm greatly disturbed by them. Aaargh!

Agree with Ann - you do look fab in all your pics & we're all enjoying your writing.