Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Cancer & Self Image

I have learned so much from cancer. They say, “Through darkness comes light.” I really believe that’s true.

In remission for the third time, having to lose my hair due to chemotherapy was hard on me as a woman. I know most will say, “It’s just hair.” Even I say it too, just to convince myself to stay strong. But, in fact, it sucks. It truly opened my eyes to everything I once wasn’t happy with.

Having cervical cancer reminded me of how I was so hard on myself and picked myself apart. I know I’m not the only woman who’s ever felt that way. I look back and think, “Wow Jill, you were so beautiful. Why didn’t you see it? Why did you pick yourself apart and not embrace your hips that measured 44 inches, or embrace your Roman nose?” After all, it’s my personal features that give me my character. Don’t get me wrong, I had confidence, but I still found things that I thought weren’t “perfect.” Nothing is perfect!

Every now and then I like to look back on pictures of myself before cancer. Why did I complain? I was fine the way I was. Now I’m fighting something more meaningful. I’m fighting for my life. I’ve learned to embrace life’s changes, how my body has changed and how I’m Mrs. T (bald) once again. Or how going #2 is completely different from before. Because I have a colostomy bag, this is now totally different.

So my advice to other women, especially women with cancer is to love WHO YOU ARE. Be happy with how you were created; focus on what you HAVE and NOT what you DON’T. Believe me, there’s something greater out there for you, if you believe. I’m a people watcher, sounds creepy I know. I often wonder to myself whether or not the person I’m admiring knows how eccentric he or she is. Being in the city regularly due to my medical appointments, I get to see all colors of the rainbow. The culture differences, the true beauty behind just how different we may look. But internally we’re all the same.

No matter what type of cancer you have ladies, just remember, you’re beautiful inside and out. Your inner beauty will always be there. We might need time adjusting to our shiny new heads or new gadgets attached to our bodies. But, with all the hardships that come along with our new appearances and emotions due to cancer, just remember how bad ass we truly are.

I hope to inspire other women dealing with Cervical Cancer to share their stories and true emotions without fear. Tell it how it Is; don’t hold back. Our cancer is tough, but somehow being painted as “easy.” If I can reach you with my story, just imagine who you’ll inspire by sharing yours. Let’s come together, share our stories, and help one another through our battles. We can help prevent future cases of Cervical Cancer, the one cancer that can often be prevented with a vaccine.

From now on, I’m going to love every inch of me because I’m beautiful inside and out. I will also remind my friend’s how beautiful they are as well. You have one life. Live it, love it, embrace the changes, take care of yourself, and be kind to yourself and others.

Now that I’ve gained my confidence back, I’m going to rock my bald head, wear my wigs and not care who’s looking. Because they could really be thinking, “Wow, she’s so fierce.” Those stares may not have anything to do with my cancer.

So gentlemen, don’t be afraid of our appearances, we’re strong women who know how valuable life is, how anything can change but we still ride the waves. How special love truly is. If you see a friend or a loved one going through the changes of cancer, please remind them how beautiful they are.

Jillian Scalfani is a young 34-year-old mother with an incurable form of cervical cancer. She and her children have a great support system when it comes to her friend’s and family. Read more about Jillian here.

Survivors Guilt is Real

Survivor guilt (or survivor’s guilt; also called survivor syndrome or survivor’s syndrome) is a mental condition that occurs when a person perceives themselves to have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not.  – via Wikipedia  

We’ve all lost people in our lives, family members and friends who we’ve loved dearly. But when you’re a cancer survivor, the loss of a friend you’ve met from your cancer journey stirs up a different kind of grief. It’s called survivor’s guilt, and it often has a different meaning for everyone.

In the summer of 2014, when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, I joined a Facebook support group because I didn’t know anyone who’d ever gone through this type of cancer. I felt the need to find women I could talk to and who were feeling or had felt similar fears and anxieties as I was. The women I met were remarkable and supportive and from that online community I gained a small, but very close group of girlfriends. Women I talked to online every day as I went through surgeries and treatments. Women I shared stories of my life with because our bond became so much more than our cancer.

Just over a year ago, one of my beautiful teal sisters passed away after battling a recurrence. She was an amazing friend who shined brighter than anyone I’d ever met. She lived a few hours away and I had been lucky enough to visit her twice. The first time was for a benefit to help raise money to help her as she underwent treatment. She surprised us all as it turned into a wedding and she stood before us and married the man of her dreams. The second visit was full of sadness as she’d been placed on hospice. It was a difficult visit, but to hug her and hold her hand one more time and share our loving friendship was touching. A few weeks later she passed with her husband by her side.

I think of my friend daily. Cancer brought us together, gave us a friendship that will forever be engraved in my soul. But cancer took her from me, took her from her family. It makes me sad and angry at the same time. As a survivor when you lose someone to cancer, so many questions run through your mind. Why was her cancer worse than mine? Why did cancer take her away? Why am I still here?

Survivor’s guilt makes you wonder what made your diagnosis and treatment different from that of someone whose cancer took them away. You feel guilty because you’re still here to love and be loved, and they have left this world, leaving their loved ones much too soon.

Amanda’s friend Melissa

I’m reminded of my friend through old Facebook posts and text messages I refuse to delete. Though I only knew her for a little more than a year, she touched my life in so many beautiful ways. And when I feel that guilt rising up, she somehow brings me strength and lends me some of her shine. She is one of the reasons I became an advocate. The world should not have lost Melissa’s shine because of cancer. I’m lucky to have known her, lucky to feel her love inside me to help me push forward and tell other women about cervical cancer prevention.

Amanda Tanay is a Cervivor Ambassador and is raising funds to help get her to Cervivor School Florida. You can help make that a reality by donating to her fund.