Mask Off Armour off : Life through chemotherapy and after

Hey everyone it has been a while since I have written a blog, there’s been a lot,  I GOT MARRIED, the most special day of our lives, perfection, especially after what had been the most terrible year for both myself and Jake, he was the man to pull me together on a regular basis, now I get to call that man my husband, so proud, but this isn’t what this blog is about, I am actually taking a rewind, back to chemo. I feel this blog is the right time for me to address a few things and I really hope it can reach out to others, I share so much on my instagram but you’ll see I don’t a have a perfectly aesthetically pleasing feed it’s a lifestyle blog and with lifestyle things aren’t always ‘perfect’ and that’s what I want to touch on. When I started this blog through my cancer journey I promised myself I would be totally open and show all of the sides I experienced because for me these are the blogs that really helped me through treatment and after, so I hope I can do the same for others through my eyes.

Mask off is a term I relate to being totally vulnerable to the ‘outside’ world. The person that goes to bed each night removing any mask and the person who wakes in the morning without her disguise, the one who hides away in the house scared to face the world, and the one who pulls on a big hat and coat to go for a walk where there isn’t anyone else so I can just feel free. The one who is totally honest the ‘me’ who is too tired to mask up and hide behind an armour when all the energy has been sapped from my body. The one who is physically  drained and in pain. The one who is mentally unstable, in pain, low, so low, insecure in her own body and insecure for her own living self. Sound familiar? …Well if it does keep reading and I will share a few ‘realities’ I learned along the way, and even if you are reading this on the outside to cancer maybe this blog will help give an understanding, and maybe something can be taken away for you to help someone close who is battling this thing called cancer.

These images I am sharing are mask off, the me before I started layering the armour onto my body, this is what those close to me would see, which now I reflect must have been so hard from them to ‘see’ at the Time in these photos I knew that I looked ill but now looking back I can see just how ill I may have looked to others, at times my mental state was so strong I felt just like the next person even when outwardly I didn’t but the times I felt mentally weak, WOW insecurities on an entire different scale would flood my mind. Some photos I took after I had been crying uncontrollably for what felt like hours, when  felt  detached from this body of mine, it didn’t feel like mine, and the worse part my mind didn’t feel like mine either, those times I really felt my lowest but looking back now I learnt a lot about myself.

Mask on, GET ON

I hid behind my wig, my make up, my clothes (I did a lot of internet shopping) At the start this came quite easy, of course I didn’t feel 100% but I felt ‘normal’ whatever that is, I still felt like me. I felt like I had to do this to protect myself, protect others, I didn’t want the looks ‘oh she doesn’t look too well’ I wanted to be able to choose those moments, I felt so vulnerable and this mask I put on helped.

The Armour became too heavy

The up keep of trying to appear well is actually very tiring when you are physically shattered anyway. Look I didn’t do this for others, maybe a small percentage of me did, but I did this for me , it was who I was, which I guess I was holding so hard to the me before cancer I started to prevent myself from the transition into this new me, but I didn’t like this new me, it was change, it wasn’t what I had been for 33 years, it threw me totally. Armour isn’t a bad thing, I know a lot of others I have spoken with did or do the same, it’s protective like any coat of arms, but you have to stop and have a little word with yourself when it starts to drag you down it becomes too heavy for you to carry anymore, this is when this protective armour starts to work against you, not with.

Pressure from you and only you

The pressure really isn’t from the outside world, yes there will always been snigger’s of ‘oh she doesn’t look well’, or ‘she looks like she has cancer’ and you know what, I’ve been there, I passed comment on someone not looking too well, because I haven’t understood truly what they are going through, but if I’m honest like previously stated there was only a small part of me which worried what others thought most of the time I couldn’t give two s**Ts what people thought, and that Was a lesson learned in itself. I was that woman before cancer who on the inside was so insecure, I was that person who worried WAY too much about what others thought of me, and here I was , armour off and I couldn’t care less , I had more focus on getting better than anything around. I speak often about turning a bad situation around and I guess no matter how low I felt at this time, how much I didn’t recognise the person staring back at me in the mirror I finally overcome one of the most haunting traits I had , caring too much about others opinions, I know longer gave that time, I know longer cared and in fact I was blooming into this woman I always knew I was, the woman I always wanted to be. I learnt the pressure I put on myself came from me, because we only have control over ourselves. We can’t stop outside judgements or opinions but we can control the story of what self care and love we tell ourselves and whilst I began to peel my armour back I really felt this, one of the biggest positive lessons I learned about myself and life whilst I was at my weakest, whilst I was open to being fired at I protected myself not from the outside in, but from the inside.

Learning this new body

At this point five months into chemo, I had to let the armour go a little, it was too heavy to carry around with me, five months into chemo your body feels worn and heavy so you need to ditch as much un necessary equipment you can. This isn’t easy, even with this great life lesson learnt it is so hard to do. Learning this new body is a mind field but whilst you are still living in the old you, you are prevented from learning the new you.

Not accepting I have cancer. 

Biggest battle for me there, to learn this new body and mind of mine I had to accept I had cancer, sound crazy to you? I shared my blog about cancer and I was still struggling to accept I had cancer, mad hey? Well …not really, in my opinion , now, totally normal. This was a fight for me, acceptance of such change. I had spent all my years hearing about cancer, telling myself . ‘ahhh it will never happen to me i’ll be alright ‘ and then BOOM here I am months into chemo for breast cancer, hairless, bloated from steroids, weak and I guess yes, I looked like I had cancer.

Pride is a bitch

Being a very ‘proud’ person I allowed pride to get in the way of me moving forward. I had always been quite a defensive person, I had grown up having to fight for this or that, fighting for attention from a Child, and then working in a mans world trying to flight for my own recognition as a hard working woman, not just something to look at. Fighting came in handy at the start, when I was dealing with the first couple months of treatment but I soon learnt that fighting was holding me back. I didn’t want to fight cancer anymore, I had to learn to accept that it was happening to me and that meant letting all things cancer in. The fight had become too hard, I wanted to be at peace with it. Another life lesson right there. Years of crawling over things to get where I wanted, Years of defensively  protecting myself from MYSELF, I had gotton the past me in such a pickle. Sitting with cancer and the cards I had been dealt showed me who I really was. It may you too? I leant my love of cooking, my love of writing and I got to learn the gentle side of me, and this person I actually much preferred.

Change, who even likes change?

I looked different, I stood out like a sore thumb. My lashes and brows fell out right at the end of treatment, a time when in my head everything was going to grow back. Eyebrow loss disguised from eyebrow tattoo I had years ago made that a little easier to come to terms with. Putting fake lashes on, well those who know me will know that I could never put them on before so trying to stick those bad boys on my eyelids with no lashes as a guide was a total nightmare. In fact I had a girlie gathering to attend and I remember I slapped on the mask , the foundation didn’t sit on my face right, it went all dry around my nose chin and forehead where I had this out of control red chemo rash. I had sore eyes, they wouldn’t stop watering so any eye make up I put on would just smudge instantly and then there was FAKE EYELASHES!!! oh dear lord, trying to put them on did not go well, in fact it all went that bad I crawled onto the floor in our bedroom and sobbed my heart out, I mean that sobbing when you let of little screams in between trying to breathe. I looked at this bloated face, the steroids left me with a really round head and I hated on myself, I hated cancer for everything it was doing, I hated it was trying to frickin kill me, I sat and hated which is very dangerous grounds, I tormented myself. Safe to say I didn’t make it to that girlie gathering. I thought at the time I had to make this effort, I didn’t want my friends to feel uncomfortable around me, when in fact I wish I said I can’t make it but I don’t suppose you can pop round and see me before you go out, just for a hug. But oh no….proud me wouldn’t ask for such a thing, my poor now husband once again had to pick up the pieces  because I only let him see me in such a mess. Crazy really my mates would have been round in a shot if I truly told them how I felt, I was once again making this experience harder for myself because of my frickin pride.

This is when I said no …I’ve had enough

Send Help.

Another lesson learned. Ask for help, you don’t want to slap on the mask and place on your armour, just say. Ask your friends, family, loved ones to pop over for a cuppa. I learnt that I tried to look too strong, too strong, I dislike that expression but I did. I wanted to look like I had it all figured out but I made it harder by shutting people out. Message from friends ‘how are you doing sarah’ Reply, ‘yea I am good, been out walking feeling great thanks how are you’ REAL STORY ‘I feel crap, I feel depressed and I can’t seem to move my body to go for a walk are you free at anytime to come with me’

I repeat, ask for help. No matter what you think you are not in this alone, your loved ones will never judge you, they want to help, try not to push them away , you don’t have to protect them, they want and need to protect you for once, allow them to do their job, they want to see you happy and they don’t care if you have your mask on or not, they just want to help to make you smile.

Mask on or off you are beautiful, you are eneough.

It’s true what they say beauty comes from the inside, putting a mask on is totally fine until it starts to weigh you down, until it starts to work against you not with. It is so hard to find the right way, but my only advice is listen to your intuition, cancer may try and play tricks on you, it may try to take your ‘appearance ‘ away but intuition lives within, you may have to wade through layers of emotions, highs and lows, to get to it but…you will. Appearance is not what makes you beautiful , yes social media nowadays can make you think otherwise, yes there are people you look at and think they have got their sh*t together and you haven’t (been there many a time)  but ultimately it’s a smile from the inside out that makes true beauty this is something will all own, if we allow it to, if we put as much effort into believing this as we do each time we put our mask and armour on you start to believe in yourself, your being and you see that beauty really comes from within, you need to love yourself all over again, embrace this life for all the special moments it gives you and allow that bubbling happiness which you do have, rise to the top. This is something I put into life after cancer, a life lesson I guess we all must remember. It doesn’t come easy, it comes with pain, but please hold on in there.

This is a long blog, but I really felt I wanted to cover as much as I could, you may not read it all at once, or you may pick out sections, but whatever, I hope it can help, I hope it lets you in. I wanted to end this blog with a quote from my favourite film ‘Eat Prey Love’

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” Elizabeth Gilbert.

Love Sarah


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