Cancer Cure with Class

Platinum pumps on four-inch heels.  Silver hoops dangle against tan neck.  Brilliant bracelets wrap wrists.  White tipped long fingers. Black dress carves out curved form.  Heads follow strides across the floor.  She owns the room.  Why not?  This is an oncology office and she is a cancer survivor.

The aide calls her name.  Vital signs are measured. “Is there anything new?”  She is lead to the exam room, which is too cool.  Off shoes, dress and augmented bra.  Ornaments hide in her purse and retreat to the hook.  On goes one-size-fits-no-one blue paper gown.  She perches on padded table.  She is a patient.

There is power in appearance.  This sort of  “dress up” is not play.  This is about taking control of life.  When we feel good about the way we look, we feel good about the way we are.  Maybe it is a sharp jacket and tie.  Perhaps a bright bauble or scarf.  When we are beat, it heals deep inside to hear, “Hey, you look great.”

Sure, cancer is about health and the struggle for life.  Of course, it is a battle that affects our soul.  Cancer can deprive us of our humanity, and our individuality.  This is war for what is good and strong and free.   It is about expressing who we are and our deep beauty.

The tools here are not scan, scope or chemo.  For this fight you need wig, nail file, shear stockings and perfume.   Cowboy boots, gold watch and four-in-hand tie.  Diamonds, rubies and gold. Take command with tattoo, eye shadow and red lips.  Leather, silk and cashmere.   Dig out that Baseball Cap. “If they can win, so can I.”  To reclaim the inside, it helps to heal the out.

“Cosmetic” or “plastic” repair helps cancer survivors feel whole.  Looking healthy aids the fight. For breast cancer patients this frequently means breast reconstruction after partial or complete mastectomy.  The rebuilt body helps to heal the psychological injury that comes with cancer.  It can confirm bruised sexuality, even when libido is not quite there.  All women with breast cancer should review reconstructive options with their doctors.  Patients requiring facial surgery, colostomy or large skin repairs should have the same sort of discussion.  Sometimes skin deep is enough.

The American Cancer Society recognizes the relationship of appearance and body image to healing with Look Good…Feel Better Programs.  They give group workshops and one-on-one consultations to help women learn about makeup, skin care, nail repair and ways to deal with hair loss.  Other groups focus not only on makeup, but also on clothing, prostheses, headwear as well as sun protective clothing and garments.  These programs rebuild the injured.

She slips off the table.  Examination is complete.  She is doing fine.  No lumps or bumps.  No signs or symptoms.  No new treatment or tests.  The flimsy medical costume vanishes into the garbage.  She carefully adorns with clothing, jewelry and style.

To seize life means more then killing cancer.  We have to rediscover who we are.  Find our place as complete social beings.  We have to try to heal all the way out.  So, put on that chiffon blouse.  Shine those wing tip shoes.  Hang that bling.  Its time to strut and prance.  You deserve it.  You are a cancer survivor.  Work it.


  • Eric
    Absolutely. My mom was wheelchair-bound late in her recurrence with a pelvic fracture due to mets to bone. She seized the opportunity to return to perilously high heels, figuring she might as well get some use out of them. With a disease where "indignities" should totally be listed as a symptom, never underestimate the healing power of a cashmere throw. ;0)
    • James Salwitz, MD
      I love the image of "perilous" heals worn safely in a wheelchair. It is somehow like laughing in the face of the disease. Thanks, jcs

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