Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Octavia Butler often wrote of "Other" as a state of being. That alien sense of not belonging, but not knowing where to go. I couldn't fully appreciate her writing as a student years ago, but now I'm starting to believe that I have some inkling of what she was alluding to.

With the first transplant, I belonged to an exclusive group of medical adventurers setting out to get saved. When I relapsed, I jumped ship to be in a more inclusive, if unenviable, group of people desperate for some hope. Now that I've had transplant number two, I live in a much smaller world inhabited by some very remarkable people.

I never really felt isolated the first time around. I proudly walked around with my head naked and the lower half of my face covered by a surgical mask. Most days, it never occurred to me to cover my baldness since it was so normal for me. I gave up business casual for lounge wear and pajamas. In my new world, track suits were de rigeur. I never felt alien because I was surrounded by people just like myself.

Since my second transplant, I've become a little more apprehensive. I suspect it has something to do with the steroids altering my appearance. I no longer recognize my face in the mirror and often wonder at people's reactions upon first seeing me. Last week, I put on make-up for the first time in 8 months. I hated the way I looked. It was so foreign and fussy. I had just strayed out of my comfort zone.

I have let cancer dance me into a corner that I felt "safe" in. No more. Now that I'm off of the dreaded steroids, my face is very slowly deflating. I can almost make out cheek bones. I'm starting to feel more like myself and less like biting someone's head off. Thanks to the experiences of the last two years, I'll always feel a little "alien", and that's really quite alright.


Wiley said...

Ann, I have known you more years than I will reveal in this most public forum. For all of those years, I have known you to be a most remarkable person, with or without cancer. To be able to love and put up with another equally remarkable person, my dear friend Chris, only demostrates how remarkable you really are. Somehow, I doubt that you'll let your experience with cancer keep you in that "safe" place too long. Besides we want y'all to come visit us soon.

Ronni Gordon said...

Great, thought-provoking post. Hey you don't need makeup. You're beautiful without it. Maybe just a little lip gloss. So glad you're off the steroids and feeling more like yourself.

Jim said...


Dori had the steroid "chipmunk" face, as you know. She was just as beautiful then, as she is now and was before steroids. You know that.

Physical appearance is important to women, yes, but we love you because of who you are. Somewhere, on the blood cancer blogosphere, I hear a resounding "AMEN!"


michelle said...

Amen sista! I can totally relate. I've been meaning to write a post on my own blog, but I am not in the mood. I may just link to this post of yours. Haha. The "chipmunktitus" really sucks, but at least it never affects the smile! AND yours is always beautiful and bright - your spirit shines through.

Much love,

One Mother with Cancer said...


I'm glad that you are starting to feel more like yourself again. Hope you continue to heal.