But You Don’t Look Sick

So, here’s the thing. Makeup is MAGIC. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s the damn truth. Magic, y’all.

I’ve always loved makeup, even as a little girl. I paid extra attention to all of the Seventeen articles, tried all the Cover Girl, Maybellene, and Clinique trends, and in eighth grade was certain that I would be a makeup artist. Hell, I was even a counter manager for a short-lived brand of makeup in the late 90’s! (R.I.P. Tommy Hilfiger makeup.)

Even though I feel like pure hell most of the time, I rally for events so that I can be  part of life. I also wear a lot of makeup. No, let me rephrase that so that it’s exceedingly clear. I wear a shitton of makeup almost every time I leave the house. So much Makeup. I’d say I feel like a drag queen, but they do a much better job at contouring & I hate to insult a group of rocking people that way.

So. Much. Makeup.

And when I don’t wear as much makeup, I get a combination of full on stares and averted eyes. It’s like being a bodily fluid stain on a light colored pair of jeans. Nobody wants to see, but they can’t not see. Terrible.

I use 2 layers of foundation, color corrector, and concealer to even out my skin tone and help a little with the circles under my eyes. If you’ve ever applied 2 layers of foundation, you have an idea of how it feels, even when you use products that are designed to feel light.

It is something that has morphed from around 30ish minutes pre-cancer to between 60 & 90 ish minutes, depending on my eyebrows. No, for real. My eyebrows are now that difficult. I’m getting better, but it’s still a process. I’ve posted some on Facebook about it, and decided to give a bit more in-depth info here. There’s a reason.

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This is what I look like without makeup, it’s not a pretty picture, folks. That’s the eyebrow that has the most hair, but it’s less than that today. Also my cheek will sometimes randomly swell. Super sexy, yo.

I need a certain amount of coverage anyway because I’m vain & prefer to not see the scarring & discoloration already there. With chemo, there is a sallowness to the already uneven tone, as well as a deepening of the naturally dark circles under my eyes. They’ve turned reddish. Love it.

The following pics are not all on the same day. It shows some of the learning curve that so many drastic changes have required. Another thing you might notice is that the 2 sides of my face aren’t anything alike, so trying to achieve any form of symmetry was always tricky, but now is making my OCD kick into overdrive.

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This is a process. Granted, I had WAY more eyebrows in this pic than now, but you get the idea. A stencil is moderately easier, but not always. I was experimenting with brow pomade. I’ve since abandoned this product for the time being.
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One side all done eye with lip gloss, blush, brows, shadow, liner, & Thrive eyelashes
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Here’s a closer look, especially at the eyelashes. I now have almost no lashes of my own, so my Thrive lases are sort of a lifeline. Sidenote, for crying out loud, learn how to use a filter! Wow!
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All of my Thrive goodies. Amazing products.
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Mid-December, at the Dr. office. Voila!
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What it takes for me to *not* look like I’m knocking on death’s door.

Now, the makeup may not seem like that much, except that my normal routine has morphed into a process that requires me to take a break during application and I always have at least one hot flash. You’re seeing serum foundation, pressed powder foundation, color corrector (goes under concealer), concealer, eyebrow powder pencil, I don’t have enough lashes for the curler any more but I used it till I couldn’t, same with mascara, a nude eyeshadow palette, waterproof eyeliner, blush, lip liner, lip gloss, Thrive false eyelashes, & eyelash adhesive, plus my Sephora eyelash applicator. What used to be reserved for a very big night out is now my day look.

Why, you ask. Why go through this rigamarole, this hassle? As I’ve said, I am vain. I’ll admit it. Given the choice between looking bad & putting a bit of effort into making sure that I’m happy with how I look, I will choose to put some effort into it and look better. It makes me feel better. It makes me happy. It also gives me a bit of a shield against the pervasiveness of cancer and chemotherapy. So much has been stolen from me, and my looks are pretty high on that list. I spent last year losing weight, regaining some lost confidence & the past few months have resulted in my weight put back on and the confidence stolen. I feel bad enough, so why look bad when I’m out of the house?

That brings me to a couple of other things that I’ve talked a bit about here, more to others in person and online. The thing I tend to hear most is that I don’t even look sick. It’s great to hear, but I am me, so I’m honest & say it’s due to wearing a ton of makeup. It doesn’t really sink in, though, with some people and makes me come across like a bit of an ass who can’t accept a compliment. I can, but it feels important to let people know that I don’t look very good on my own. I’m so lucky that I have 2 incredible wigs and am able to apply some camouflage and walk amongst the living like there’s nothing wrong with me. But don’t let it fool you, because it’s a ruse.

I use a handicap placard for parking, too. It makes a world of difference. If I’m getting groceries, or when I was trying to go go Christmas shopping, that few extra steps to the car are sometimes the difference between the energy to actually go home and needing to rest for awhile, debating whether or not to call a ride instead. The only downside is when I look good-you know, like I’m not sick-& get the kind of looks that make me think someone is going to come and confront me. I mean, I’m ready to whip off my wig at any moment, but it’s still unsettling.

As a dear friend put it (of her’s husband’s experience with cancer a few years ago):”…he didn’t look ‘that sick’, and in a way, if you don’t look sick, people just expect you to be ok.” See, if someone doesn’t look ‘sick enough’ it can be really hard to accept that they are really ill.

So, while I try hard to look not sick, I am. I took a nap today, then put on makeup, did the dishes, got groceries, made dinner, and nearly collapsed. When you tell me I look great, I appreciate it, but the look you give me might compel me to adamantly exclaim the amount of work it took to look ok. Don’t be offended. Same for the parking placard. Just because I’m not in a wheel chair doesn’t mean I don’t need it. I’m actively reminding myself to not judge others that I see not looking handicapped enough more, too.

On the plus side, I do like looking fabulous….

 


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