Have you looked at old photos recently? Have you zeroed in on ones of you and thought wow, I looked better than I thought I did back then, if only I still looked that good. Throw a cancer diagnosis into the mix and such thoughts might be magnified many times over, am I right?
Maybe you were younger (well, of course you were). Maybe you were thinner. Or heavier in a good way. Maybe your clothes fit better because you still had your original body parts (yeah, I mean breasts). Maybe your hair looked better. Maybe you had more hair. Or maybe you just had hair.
Have you ever looked at your old photos and said to yourself, gosh, I wish I still looked that good?
Yeah, me too.
And sometimes the photos don’t even have to be that old!
Recently, I was sorting through some before-cancer photos, which for me, means the ones taken before my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis because that’s when cancer started taking its toll. By the time my diagnosis came, some of the damage had already been done because as any caregiver will tell you, cancer takes a toll, emotionally and physically, on them too.
Looking through those before-cancer photos made we wonder, did my entire family look differently back then?
Did we all look more carefree, more unscathed, more innocent, less worn down?
Did we all look younger? And I don’t mean just in years.
Maybe. Maybe I just imagine that to be so.
I do know that since my diagnosis and treatment, I looked and still look, a whole lot differently than in those before-cancer photos. This is obvious when I look at cancer photos (and I didn’t allow that many to be taken) in which I have no hair, no eyelashes and no color, and it’s still true today, even after the return of such things.
And this has nothing to do with normal aging and the passing of years.
It’s more than obvious physical changes.
In some ways, I feel differently post cancer, too, and I sometimes wonder if this change is a visible thing. I wonder if I have a different persona all the way around now. I wonder if others perceive me differently. I wonder if I am always the reminder, the reminder of cancer.
Do I have a permanent “look” of one who’s witnessed and experienced cancer?
Or does no one in my circle of face-to-face contacts even give cancer a thought these days?
The latter is probably more likely.
Do you have thoughts and questions like these?
Sometimes when I look at the most recent before-cancer photos of myself, I wonder about the cancer that was probably growing in my body when the photos were taken. I study the photos looking for some outward sign or clue of cancer. (Let’s be real, I also study my chest’s former appearance).
Shouldn’t there be one?
Shouldn’t there be some kind of indication that something was seriously amiss in my body?
The featured photo of my mother and me was taken about two months before her metastatic diagnosis and roughly two years before my diagnosis. Things were obviously going on in her body at that time and likely were in mine as well. And yet we did not know.
How could I not have known something so awful was going on inside my own body?
How could my mother not have known the same?
Logically, I realize these thoughts and questions are ridiculous, and yet I keep looking. I keep wondering.
Photos are just photos. You can’t really tell what’s going on in any person’s life, much less inside their body, by just looking at photos. Still…
Within every photo there is a story, an event or a reason why that shot was taken on that particular day at that particular moment in time. The story is there even if you can’t see it or remember it. And perhaps there are clues to things yet unknown at the time of the photo that we cannot see. Then again, maybe there aren’t.
Regardless, I find myself looking harder for stories and clues in old photos these days.
What about you – do you look for clues too?
What goes through your mind when you look at pre-cancer diagnosis photos?
If applicable, do you believe cancer was always in your destiny?
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