It’s the little things…
Often we get distracted by the big things, and we forget the little things that show us how incredibly blessed we are and how far we’ve come in life. I had a powerful reminder this week.
I was completing a medical form that needed some routine questions answered. When the nursing sister asked about my medical history, I gave my usual response: “I had cancer in my twenties“.
Unlike the usual sympathetic nod and I-don’t-know-what-to-say-next response I usually get from people, this lady was being paid to probe deeper.
“When and where was your cancer?” she asked me.
Because there are only so many lines in the medical history section of the form, I had to keep it brief:
“Well, I had a series of nosebleeds when I was 20 that the doctors thought was caused by an inverted papilloma. They removed it surgically by snipping over here (I point to an area below my left eye) and found traces of carcinoma. Three years later, it was back more aggressively and more surgery (my upper lip) was followed by 6 weeks of radiation. Again two years later, there it was with a vengeance so I had a bilateral radical neck dissection where they removed my sternocleidomastoid muscle and 32 lymph nodes, and another 7 weeks of radiation followed. It was there again two years later, finally for the last time. This time they worked through here (I point to a spot on the inside of my mouth). I’ve been clear for more than 20 years, so all good“.
I rattled it off by rote.
By the time I was done, she was staring at my face the way the losing team on The Amazing Race stares at a map: intense; confused; a little emotional. She was trying to piece together the story I just told her, one scar at a time. After a short, uncomfortable silence, she said with so much emotion: “You are beautiful!”
Not quite what I was expecting! Those who follow my blog posts know that self-image is an area I struggle with. Feeling beautiful isn’t something that comes naturally to me. Quite the opposite. But then she said something that went deeper than just a perceived platitude: “Given what you’ve gone through and that you’re still standing here looking like you do, you are beautiful!”
“Given what you’ve gone through…” I have been through a lot! My body’s been through a lot! And I’m still here, still me, just stronger. Maybe what she sees in me isn’t what I see in the mirror, so how ungrateful of me to see myself as anything less than beautiful?
We sat there chatting for a little while longer, her staring at me with an awe that penetrated me to my core. I felt her admiration for my journey. I felt appreciation for my body for carrying me through it. In that moment, I felt beautiful.
My next challenge is to create more moments where I feel beautiful no matter what I think I look like. Instead of cringing at the thought, I’m actually looking forward to it. Because, after all, given what I’ve gone through and that I’m still standing here looking like I do, I am beautiful.
You are, too.
About the Author
"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." Flannery O'Connor