A time capsule

I’m sitting here on my laptop, looking through a folder of old photos from my phone and taking a walk down memory lane. There is nothing like a photograph to take you right back to a moment, and to remind you of how you felt in that moment. I know a lot of people don’t take photos of themselves during cancer, which is understandable. For the most part, you usually look like crap. And you don’t necessarily want to document the worst, scariest, saddest part of your life. In my case, I actually took quite a few photos. In fact, I even treated myself to a nice camera early on in my diagnosis, which I used for most of the photos that appeared on this blog.

I also snapped several photos on my crappy Blackberry (hence the mostly poor quality), which I tend to never look at, except for moments like now where I happen upon that folder. Let’s have a look, shall we?

This photo is apparently from the day I had my biopsy. So I'm assuming this was a forced smile...

This photo is apparently from the day I had my biopsy. So I’m assuming this was a forced smile…

I think this was my first time going out post-mastectomy.

I think this was my first time going out post-mastectomy.

In a Starbucks bathroom right after my pre-chemo hair chop. Got to enjoy this style for a whole month before it ended up on my floor and in my garbage bin.

In a Starbucks bathroom right after my pre-chemo hair chop. Got to enjoy this style for a whole month before it ended up on my floor and in my garbage bin.

This is the bruise I got after having dye injected for a CT scan to see if my cancer had spread. I cried so hard when I took the bandaid off and saw it. Yuck.

This is the bruise I got after having dye injected for a CT scan to see if my cancer had spread. I cried so hard when I took the bandaid off and saw it. Yuck.

Before I was wheeled away for my port placement. Feigning excitement.

Before I was wheeled away for my port placement. Feigning excitement.

A clump of my hair as it started to fall out.

A clump of my hair as it started to fall out.

My sis bought my this nail polish during chemo. It's called "Enuff is enuff."

My sis bought me this nail polish during chemo. It’s called “Enuff is enuff.”

My zombie/nearly-dead look which I sported most of the winter.

My zombie/nearly-dead look which I sported most of the winter.

One of a few chemo shopping sprees I had when I happened to have a burst of energy.

One of a few chemo shopping sprees I had when I happened to have a sudden burst of energy.

This was pretty much the lowest of the low. Splotchy steroid cheeks and bald as hell and not even able to muster up a fake smile. Yeesh.

This was pretty much the lowest of the low. Splotchy steroid cheeks and bald as hell and not even able to muster up a fake smile. Yeesh.

Chemo did all kinds of bad things to me, including causing extreme dry eyes that were constantly painful and looked disgusting. Ew, this pic.

Chemo did all kinds of bad things to me, including causing extreme dry eyes that were constantly painful and looked disgusting. Ew, this pic.

One thing that just kept on going was my appetite. So much food, all the time.

One thing that just kept on going was my appetite. So much food, all the time.

The fat-face/pumped full of steroids look.

The fat-face/pumped full of steroids look.

Walmart hat fashion.

Walmart hat fashion.

One of my few wig days.

One of my few wig days.

The beginning of the regrowth phase when I became obsessed with taking photos of my scalp to see if I had hair. This photo was taken exactly one year ago.

The beginning of the regrowth phase when I became obsessed with taking photos of my scalp to see if I had hair. This photo was taken exactly one year ago.

Is it growing? OMG I think it's growing!

Is it growing? OMG I think it’s growing!

These photos now cause a huge range of emotions when I look at them: sad, shocked, angry, proud, amazed. I’m glad I have so many photos, if anything, to remind me how much has changed in such a short amount of time. And how much, for better or worse, could change again. How it’s all out of my control and how I need to be grateful that, for the time being, my current photos consist of me smiling, having fun, feeling healthy, and with a full head of hair.

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14 thoughts on “A time capsule

  1. These are excellent, and you are one photogenic girl! You have an incredible record of your trip through cancerland. I have taken some pics, but they are mostly so scary I couldn’t imagine posting them. I asked my kids, and they said don’t put them up, I’d scare our family members!

    • It seems a lot of people always say this. So strange… it’s like the worst/ugliest time imaginable, but yet it later feels important to have proof that it happened.

  2. You are brave to revisit these. There’s also that element of “holy shit, did that really happen?” I have two years of hair now, and still wonder when I’ll stop marking time that way. Always look forward to reading essays from you. xoxo

    • I know, I have a weird detachment from the photos now, where I don’t even feel like I’m looking at me, but someone else.

      I can’t wait for two years of hair… it feels like it is taking forever!

      • I don’t know about you, but my new hair is AMAZING. Quite unkindly, people tell me “it won’t last” and then I wonder about the interior life of a person who would say that to anyone who ever went unwillingly bald for live-saving purposes. I thought it took forever, too. And my little boys won’t think this is truly over until I look exactly the way I did before all of this happened. The photos, the hair, the anniversaries… they are powerful triggers. But it’s awesome to finally have enough length of lock to avoid explaining why I look the way I do.

      • I can’t believe people say “it won’t last”…. so annoying! Like they are jealous of your chemo-induced hairstyle. Ha. People are weird. My hair actually seems to be exactly how it always was, even though everyone kept saying it would be totally different. Still kind of wavy and thick and unruly. I’m good with it though and actually quite enjoy the short hair (for now) because it’s so easy to manage compared to my huge pre-cancer mane.
        And you’re right, it is nice to finally blend in with everyone else and not have “cancer hair” anymore like I did last summer. I still sometimes wonder “do people know??” but I really don’t think they could, it’s just my own paranoia. Takes a long time to convince myself that I look “normal” again after feeling like a mutant for so long.

  3. Thanks for posting these, Steph! Your courage to not hide or try to bury what happened is really inspiring. And yes — your short wavy hair looks absolutely gorgeous! (And I also love your sunglasses too).

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