I took a selfie the day I was feeling ugly.
Yes, I felt un-feminine and ugly that morning. I felt sad. The night before, I had shaved a handful of hair still on my scalp after two cycles of chemotherapy.
I was unsure if I would have hair again in my life given my diagnosis of stage four incurable cancer. I wondered if I would die bald, I asked if I was done with having hair forever. With those thoughts, I had grabbed my husband’s electric razor and shaved off my hair.
It needed to be done. Fall had arrived on my scalp, and I needed to accept. The next morning I looked at myself, trying to accept that I am bald once again— the second time. I had few eyelashes. My eyebrows were just faint shadows of their former selves. My body, used to being toned and fit, was anything but. All around, I felt ugly and undesirable. I thought about the toll cancer had taken on my body and how much, bit by bit, it had stolen from me.
In my anger and rebellion, I got dressed, pulled out my makeup kit, and started to use it. I put on fake lashes, painted brows, and put on a bright lipstick. I told myself, “Even if I feel ugly, I won’t look ugly.”
An hour later, I was taking selfies all over the house.
Sometimes, it’s not easy to accept life the way it’s unfolding ahead of you, but I have found that it is necessary to stare back at it and give it a good scare. And yes, I may have felt ugly that day, but I made myself pretty. And yes, external beauty is superficial, but it does matter, or there wouldn’t be a multi-billion-dollar beauty industry.
I wanted to share this because I want you to know that I am not impermeable, There are many times when I feel very vulnerable. I just end up fighting back. I get up and try to fix the problem I face.
As the psychiatrist and author Elizabeth Kübler-Ross once said,
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
Here is the picture from the day I felt ugly!
[Commentary by Dheeraj Raina: This was Uzma’s Facebook post from July 9, 2017. Cancer does things to the body that make one feel ugly and undesirable. Uzma strongly believed that what we do with that feeling is up to us. Looking is good is not enough to feel good, but it helps. And a person’s beauty is not in the length of her hair, the shape of her nose, or the complexion of her skin. Instead, as Uzma showed us, beauty lies doing the best one can, in maintaining grace under pressure and smiling no matter what.
In this post, for the sake of clarity and readability, I have made a few changes in word selection and multiple changes in punctuation and formatting. To read my approach to her unpublished work, read this.]