My mother and I are vastly different. We often don’t see things the same way and have opposite approaches to most everything in life, from motherhood to style. Still, I will say that when it comes to fashion I do take a few cues from Mom -- in my own way. I also have been known to ask her advice on what to wear to particular occasions when I find myself in doubt. So when I was wondering recently what one typically wears to chemo infusions she was the first person I asked. I specifically wanted to know what she wore to her treatments two years ago.
Mind you, my mother was the original fashionista in her day…so I planned to take what she said with a grain of salt. Mom puts make-up on to go to the mailbox…she wouldn’t dream of ever appearing out of the house in sweats and is a woman who was once known to go months without ever wearing the same garment, let alone the same outfit. Rain or shine, sickness or health, old or young my mother has always been put together appearance-wise. During her cancer treatment I never once saw her without full make-up and styled wig -- plus dressed cute…even if it was just for a visit with her grandchildren.
But I never went to infusions with her. Back then Daniel was a baby and her chemo day was a day Michael worked. So her answer to my inquiry about chemo clothes surprised me: She wore the exact same thing for each and every single treatment. Right down to her shoes. When I asked if it was because others were uber casually dressed she surprised me again and said no. Mom noticed what everyone else wore, of course. She said sometimes women came from work and were dressed rather nicely…and yes, some women came in the equivalent of sweats & t-shirts…but still others came in some version of jeans and a blouse. She never noticed anyone wearing the same thing twice, and apparently she usually saw the same people treatment after treatment. However for some reason my mother chose to practically wear a uniform for the only time in her entire life. It hangs now in her basement. She’ll never wear any piece of it again and says she’d like to burn it…but it’s still there, collecting dust hanging from a pipe in the ceiling. It was as if she didn't want cancer to touch any of her real clothes...a way of holding the awful reality at bay, perhaps. Clothing as a defense mechanism, if you will.
As I have been getting ready for my own treatment I once again cleaned out my closet…just like I did at the beginning of summer before my impending mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. At first I figured that once again I would only need comfortable, practical clothes – lamenting the fact that many of my winter things won’t get much use this year. Since I will be avoiding crowds and other unnecessary exposure to germs at the height of cold & flu season, I won’t be venturing out to do my holiday shopping or go to large festive gatherings.
But I decided not to take my cues from my mother’s wardrobe choices this time after all. Instead I am planning chemo outfits that yes, are comfy, but are also pieces that make me feel good about the way I look. My favorite cardigan, the soft new black sweater I bought, my most sparkly pins and the best fitting jeans I own…these are the things I will try to wear to chemo. And if I am able, I will snap a picture before leaving for each treatment since it is likely to be some of the only outings I will go on.
Because even though that’s not how my mom did it, I learned the value of putting my best foot forward from her…learned that appearances matter. Of course I know they matter not so much in terms of the impression you make on others…but more importantly, because of the way it effects how you feel about yourself on the inside.
Thus, I’ll wear some cute clothes for chemo and try to look at least a little nice. Guess I am my mother’s daughter after all – but totally in my own way, of course.