September 28, 2010 // Uncategorized

Picture perfect

When I had cancer, I was NEVER going to allow my picture to be taken. Dealing with Hodgkins lymphoma was one of the most difficult things I had endured in my life. I didn’t want to remember it. I certainly didn’t want to document it. In fact, wanted to run away from it, and maybe even pretend it never happened. In the book of life, turn the page. Fast.

And so, I wouldn’t let anyone take a picture of me when I was sick. That was a half a year of me dodging cameras, through birthday celebrations and summer parties. I was bald, for Pete’s sake. What rational woman would let someone photograph her bald?

“You’ll want a document of this time when you’re well,” someone said, someone who had been to cancer and back. “You’ll want to look back and see how far you’ve come.” Pshaw! I wanted to document that no more than I’d want to document a break-in, vandalism, or the way I look in the morning when I’ve been up three nights in a row with a colicky baby. No thank you. No photos for me.

However, my adamant “never” softened twice. Once was the day a cookie bouquet arrived from my old college friends in the midst of my cancer treatment. It was a gloomy day when the doorbell rang and a hefty fellow presented me with colorful, cheerful cookies, shaped like tulips, roses and daisies. That day, quite on-the-spot, I allowed my puffy, bald and chemoed-out face to smile in front of the camera, holding this very special present. I glanced at the photo shortly after it was taken. I looked just terrible. What was I thinking? I should have at least put on some mascara. Oh yeah, I didn’t have eyelashes.

The other picture I have, which is reminiscent of my struggle with cancer, is one of me standing in the driveway with my husband and two of my daughters on a Saturday morning, just before they left for a Notre Dame game in the fall. I had been wearing an ND cap, and my husband had playfully popped it off. One of the kids had a camera and asked me to smile. I grimaced at the thought, but stiffly obliged as the picture was snapped. I believe that those are the only two pictures that exist of me during this time — one taken during a momentary joy; another taken during a momentary feeling of obligation.

After some time has passed (five years to be exact) I look back now at those two photos and can’t believe what I see. True, I still don’t look attractive in either photo. But, when I look back at these now, I no longer notice the objective baldness, paleness, puffiness as much as I see how far I’ve come. I see where I’ve been. I actually see a brave woman. I see someone who has been on a journey and who has learned a lot.

Are you better off today than you were yesterday? Did you overcome a challenge, even a small one? Have you grown in self-discipline? Have you learned any lessons? Then congratulations and never mind, just for a moment, about those hurdles around the corner.

Some of us have a tendency to see what is not yet accomplished — what we have left to do and worry about it or at least busy ourselves with it. It’s okay to sit back and sometimes say, “Wow. I did that?” to relive a story that made us who we are, to share it with our children or friends.

I just finished working on my first book. The other night my husband pointed out the picture in the lower left hand corner on the back. It’s me. I’m not puffy. I have hair. In fact, unless I told you as much, I bet you wouldn’t know that I faced a disease that could’ve taken my life. The kids are doing well. A book was born. Hey, I’ve come a long way, baby!

I encourage you to look at your past today. Dig out some old photos. Remember who you were. See who you are. Try not to worry so much about perfection. Everything takes time.

Yes, more challenges are to come. But it’s okay to look back and revel in what God has helped us through so far. And it’s splendid to share those thoughts with others. We live. We learn. We grow. Life doesn’t have to always be picture-perfect. And it’s okay.

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.