Vanity... Vanity... All is Vanity

Watching Diane Sawyer on the news tonight, it struck me how well she has aged. Granted, she might have had a little "help". But, she still wears her make-up well. It seems to me that older women, no matter how many nips and tucks or surgical interventions they might have, make-up is a tell tale problem. Even millionaires, no matter how well done the make up, still cannot hide the years.

Oh, I know this sounds petty. Yes, it is. I suppose. But the idea of lost beauty and aging has hit me very hard especially this last few years. I never thought it would be possible I would react this way. I had the attitude I would grow old gracefully and accept the changes as they came. But, that's not what has happened. I've learned I am not without vanity.

2003 at age 58
Since the leukemia diagnosis, my appearance has changed drastically. My skin has dried and my face has wrinkled. Shall I blame the leukemia for the changes? Can I say it is the fault of the chemo drug I'm taking? Could it simply be old age suddenly taking over my body?

The chemo drug definitely affected my skin. Within a few days of beginning it, I got a bumpy rash. My skin suddenly felt like sandpaper. With the help of my dermatologist, I've been able to have a little control over it.

Though the bumpiness is tolerable I shall miss it's previous softness. Like a child's comfort blanket, it has disappeared. Not only that, my skin has gotten very dry.... very, very dry. That most certainly has an aging effect.

Because of the chemo, I've lost a considerable amount of weight. That's a good thing, though. I needed it. However, losing weight, especially as fast as I lost it, causes disappointing results in appearance, too. Where the face was once plump and sassy, it is now sallow and saggy. The body has lost a lot of muscle mass, too. 'Nuff said about that!

2012 at age 67
It's been a bit of an identity crisis for me. I was used to being considered young looking, and still pretty into my late 50's. Received compliments and sometimes even a head turned in my direction with a "come hither" look from men younger than I. Admittedly it was flattering. I didn't know how much it fed my ego. Nor, how I would miss it.

Suddenly, I look in the mirror and I don't know that old woman. It's a shock.

I know I will eventually become familiar with my new appearance, if I will just look in the mirror every day and acknowledge that the face I see is mine.

I think about how frivolous this all is! What am I complaining about?

I am so thankful I was not diagnosed with leukemia before these new tyrosine-kinase inhibitor chemo drugs were created. The first one, Gleevec was approved for use in 2001. Before that, the average length of time someone survived with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia was about six years. The one I'm taking, Dasatinib, is 325-fold more potent for attacking the CML. My survival is pretty much assured. I should live out my life until I die of something else.

Well, it is what it is. An older woman, a senior citizen... me, complaining of lost beauty and confused about identity. Yet, I'm alive and doing better than I was two years ago when I was in so much bone pain and having night sweats with my blood counts sky high and bone marrow not working right. And still, there is a part of me, a part deep inside, the one that knows without a doubt that I'm really twenty-something. At least it always feels that way.

I remember when my mother was in her eighties and in a nursing home. She complained about the old ladies at the lunch table. Astounded, I blurted out, "Mom! YOU are an old lady!"

We laughed.

Now it's my turn.

“When you are five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties, you know how old you are. I'm twenty-three you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties, something strange starts to happen. It is a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm--you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you are not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if this is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it.” 
― Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants


  1. Dear Elizablest ~ I hear what you say and you say it well and I agree with that confusion that comes with changing appearance as we age ~ I am experiencing it too.
    When I look at the first pic of you age 58 ~ there is no doubt you look stunning. But when I look at the more recent picture I see a beautiful elegant older woman who still cares about her appearance (I note the details such as earrings and necklace ~ and lipstick and the re-styled hair). I see a woman who is making the most of her outward appearance but most importantly I see (as well as know about) the inner beauty which radiates and is so much more important.
    I have also looked in the mirror of late and worried about my appearance ~ I am not immune. In my fifties I looked glamorous ~ now I start to see a change. And I have noticed amongst my friends that the decade 60 to 70 is the time when the aging process speeds up for us all.
    During my 60 years of life I have met many beautiful women with hearts of ice, and a shallowness that makes me catch my breath. Yes, outward beauty is lovely to behold but inner beauty is what counts in the end, and you have both. Believe me, I speak the truth.
    Jan x

  2. Thank you, Jan! I need to memorize this. Or better yet, copy and paste onto my mirror!


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