I told myself one of these days, I’d get real with you guys. So here it goes: I’m a man, baby. I kid. But since I’m pretty confident the majority of the readers on here are women, and since you have undoubtedly read my mom’s posts on her battle with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I feel like health and wellness are totally chill topics on “The Middle Page”. So while I’m not a man, I can tell you that having “low estrogen” doesn’t even begin to describe my hormone levels. Low estrogen? Try no estrogen. Or as a nonchalant nurse read to me off a chart like she was telling me the weather forecast, “it says on here post-menopausal, but I don’t really know what that means and the doctor is off ’til Monday”. I got that news a few months back, on my birthday, right before family dinner. Happy Birthday to me, right? Needless to say, I was the hit of the party at birthday dinner, where I spent half of the dinner crying in the bathroom splashing water on my face to pull my shit together and the other half of the dinner crying at the thoughtfulness of the gifts my family had given me. The beauty of my family, no matter how insane I can be, or self pitying, they never hold it against me. They just make fun of me and move on.
The doctor later informed me that those test results really weren’t a big deal. It really would have been excellent of him to share that with me sooner, to save me the trouble of turning my birthday dinner into a Telemundo melodrama. So I went about life, moving right along, when one day out of no where, my hair started falling out. Just casually stranding out like raindrops. SHE REIGNS. There’s nothing quite like unforeseen female baldness in your 20s to light a fire under your ass to rush to specialists’ offices. And as you can imagine from the way I handled run-of-the-mill test results on my birthday, I handled hair loss like a champ… if we are talking about being the Champion of Overreacting. Where my mom handles news in stride with a positive outlook, I blow things out of proportion and google worst case scenarios (where there’s a yin there has to be a yang, right?) The results came back as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (hello, hair loss!), Fibromyalgia and what my rheumatologist swears is Sjogren’s… but I’m not about to do follow up testing on an unsolvable condition. Seems like a waste of energy to have an ENT slice into my lip and say “congratulations, and good luck with that!”
Let me pause here and point out something– none of this is a big deal. These are really, minor issues in the grand scheme of life compared to what the vast majority of the world’s population deals with on a daily basis. The only thing that makes me feel a bit shameful is the chronic fatigue that comes along with everything. I sleep like a teenager and wake up tired. I have a couple of drinks and the next day you’d think I was recovering from running a marathon. But I LOVE my bed, so really, we’re golden here.
The only reason I chose to say anything at all is because if I don’t, my mom will. (Just kidding, but the woman can talk!) The reason I’m mentioning it is because my mom’s change in life events last year made this blog turn to a different angle– rolling with the punches of life and creating awareness on illnesses as opposed to being a victim. So if there are people out there living with chronic pain, I can most definitely empathize. You’re not alone, and having an “invisible illness” does not make you crazy. It makes you an incredible actor in your day-to-day life. The Academy Award goes to you, my friend. Over the past year, I witnessed and supported my mom through her fight against TNBC. In doing so, my eyes were opened to so many stories, so many people — patients and family members — who’s lives have been transformed by cancer and illness. But I’ve seen an incredible amount of strength, humility, and zeal for life. If I’ve learned anything from it, it’s that life changes quickly and involves inevitable suffering, so avoid drama and negativity where you can and move through the pain quickly. Because you can decide turn life into a party and enjoy it like an enthusiastic lunatic every opportunity you get.
The other part of my mom’s blog that morphed through her diagnosis was how to dress fashionably regardless of physical changes due to chemotherapy. She inspired me to “make it work,” as Tim Gunn famously says. Well, if I do have this Sjogren’s syndrome that my rheumatologist pal claims I have, it would explain my chronic and severe dry eyes. Due to sandpaper eyelids and my eyeballs’ panic attacks every time I try to wear contacts, my new fashion statement is glasses. I’m a Warby Parker VIP– the Warby fanatics who work in the store seem a little jealous that I own more pairs than they do. Haters gonna hate. I’m also an expert on hair loss, I know all the supplements now. I cut off my hair in an effort to prove a point that I own my body, not the other way around.
So the title of this blog, “men aren’t attentive to women in glasses”– is a saying from Marilyn Monroe’s character in the movie, How to Marry a Millionaire. She proves, and I agree, that the saying is crap. Clothes, heels, makeup, youth serums, botox– it’s all fun and it’s all girly and it all makes us feel better when we are feeling insecure. But at the end of the day, all that matters is confidence. And the only true way to develop a mad case of confidence is to fall head over heels in love with your life– the good, the bad and the ugly.
Stay Thirsty for Life, My Friends,
Alex // @theboohemian
Photos by Kate McConville