I’m hot, and it’s not just the brutal heat this past month here in Brooklyn. I mean, I think I look pretty damn hot for a 37 year old woman going through chemo treatments. I promised myself, when I first found out that I had cancer and would have to go through these hellish treatments, that I would NOT succumb to my illness–internally of course, but externally, I was going to remain as hot as possible. I would try my hardest, even on my worst days, to make myself feel good and when you look good, you feel good. So here’s Suzy’s little guide to all of you women out there going through, or recovering from ANY illness that makes you feel like shit on the inside, that I hope will inspire you to feel your best all over.
My oncologist calls me “Hollywood”. My chemotherapy usually begins at 10:00 AM, an hour of premeds, four hours of Rituxan and finally an hour of hydration. I wake up early on those mornings and I put on my face. I’ve always loved the art of makeup, and I understand that it’s not for everybody, but I put on a full face–foundation, blush, eyeshadow, mascara, my signature cat eye and and all day lipstick or gloss. I generally watch the TV in the infusion room for a while and then put on my big ol’ sunglasses, cuddle up with the blanket my friends gifted me as part of my “chemo-kit” and take a nap. By the time, I wake up, groggy from all of the Benadryl pumped into my veins, my doctor is back from his rounds at the hospital and checking up on everyone in the infusion room. He always calls out “Hollywood! How are you feeling today? At my last session, he asked me why I always wore sunglasses during my infusions. I told him that I didn’t like people to see me sleeping. He responded with one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. “When you’re sleeping with those big sunglasses and lipstick, you remind me of a movie star lounging on a boat on the Riviera.” It’s impossible not to feel better after hearing that! So, even if you’re not into the “full-face”, throw on some lipgloss and invest in a flattering pair of shades. You’ll feel better. I promise you! As the late Talia Castellano said “Makeup is my wig.”
I can’t offer much advice in this area, because unlike many of you who are going through chemotherapy, my hair hasn’t fallen out. I have terrible side effects on my scalp, which means no more hair color, but I make sure to keep it clean and styled. I can’t sleep with a ponytail (it hurts the back of my head) so sometimes I’ll just pile it on top of my head in a messy bun or clip. If I have to move on to the type of chemo that will cause my hair to fall out, I’m rocking the gypsy look. I’ve already googled “How to Tie a Head Scarf” and with some big hoop earrings and my makeup, I will know that I’ve kept my promise to say hot under all circumstances.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in that infusion room, chained to an IV, unable to move one arm, so despite the fact that my face may be “Hollywood”, my chemo clothes are certainly not. I don’t want to look like a complete slob, so I have a small collection of what I call my “Chemo-Clothes.” I adore my Lululemon sweatpants. They are comfy and warm–and they have pockets! I usually pair them with a Gap tank or t-shirt, socks (Socks are a must!!) and a pair of sneakers. The sneakers ALWAYS come off during chemo. I haven’t had the luxury of getting my regular pedicures as I have in years past so I don’t want to scare anyone with my unsightly feet, besides, it gets cold in those rooms, which means you’ll also need a chemo blanket. There are always blankets available if you don’t bring your own, but I like to feel a sense of security. Kind of like Linus.
If you’re going through chemo, chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time in bed. I’m exhausted all of the time and I can sleep for an entire day after a chemo session, so what did I do? I went out and treated myself to two sets of brand new 1,000 thread count 100% cotton sheets, down pillows, and the comforter I’ve always wanted. I changed my bedroom around to give it a “beach” feel because that’s one of my restrictions. No sunning, no excessive heat. If I can’t visit the beach in reality, I have it right in my bedroom. My bed is absolute heaven when I return home feeling germy and tired from chemotherapy. I wake up feeling refreshed (as possible) and if I’m too tired to do the laundry, I have an extra set ready to slip on my heavenly bed as the other set sits in the laundry basket.
Buy yourself some comfy, but sexy loungewear. Two of the symptoms and side effects of my cancer and treatment are daily fevers and night sweats. Gross. But after a cool shower or bath, I wrap myself up in a fluffy towel, air dry in front of my air conditioner and slip into one of my many comfy, not frumpy, nightgowns. I’m not writing about lingerie here,though I do still love my lacy underpinnings, I mean long comfy gowns. I love the long cotton gowns from Victoria’s Secret. They’re comfy, pretty and yeah, a little bit sexy. Little shorts and a tank work just as well. I’ve only experienced chemotherapy in the warmer months, but I figure I’ll just throw a fluffy robe on top of whatever comfy, sexy loungewear I have on once I rise from bed. As I wrote previously, I suffer from horrible night sweats and daily fevers, so I doubt I’ll be pulling out my old flannel pajamas anytime in the future.
So, my ladies, battling cancer is no fun at all. Most days you feel like shit, but you don’t have to look like you feel like shit! Do what you can to stay hot-start by telling yourself that you are beautiful, strong, and happy.
You gotta stay hot.