Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41 in 2009, Santa Barbara interior designer/marketing consultant Andrea Hutton fought back, and wrote about her experience in the new book, Bald Is Better with Earrings: A Survivor’s Guide to Getting Through Breast Cancer (Harper Wave, 224 pages), which she will sign at Antioch University (602 Anacapa St.) on Wednesday, July 15, 5-7 p.m. Here’s an excerpt:
Top Five Tips for Dealing with Your Self-Image
1) Don’t be embarrassed to seek emotional and psychological help. Dealing with your self-image is a huge part of healing, and most cancer patients can get enormous benefits talking with people outside their inner circle. It takes a looooooong time to work through it all, and your friends and family can only understand so much. They really want and need you to focus on your fight, your success, and your life, but you need to have time to process the rest. And it should take … well, as long as it takes.
2) There are many ways to find the help you need. Try a support group if you’re a group person. In fact, try a support group even if you’re not a group person. And try another one if you don’t like the first one. There is no substitute for being with people who’ve gone through all this themselves. Not even this book.
3) Find a therapist who specializes in cancer patients — your oncologist can recommend one — and go. Your local American Cancer Society chapter may have one on staff. Going even once or twice might help you decide if you need more. It’s a very alien feeling to get up bald, newly thin or fat, or no eyelashes or eyebrows, put on a wig, then makeup, then a prosthetic breast — get it all together so you look a little bit like your former self — and then have people tell you how fabulous, or tired, or terrific, or exhausted you look. It can feel a little like being a clown in the circus. Of course it’s the most messed-up circus ever, not the sparkly and magical Cirque du Soleil kind. Sometimes you just have to slap on the clown makeup and costume and go out there.
4) Bald really is better with earrings. There’s something about adding a little femininity to a masculine picture. Seriously, flat chest, bald head — I started to look like my grandfather; though lovely, not a handsome man! So wear some jewelry.
5) Look at yourself. I’m serious. Try really hard not to shy away from mirrors, even if the reflection is more fun house than fun. Eventually you will see that it really is you in there, and that’s what others see, too. The real you doesn’t need hair or breasts to be beautiful. It’s still your eyes and your smile. Sometimes it just takes practice to see it.