Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[cancer] Crashing over skin issues

Last night I had an emotional wipeout. Not a full-scale screaming-and-tears meltdown, but mostly only because I was too tired to pitch a fit. I was certainly depressed and upset enough to have done so.

Jersey Girl in Portland had come over to eat dinner with me and Lisa Costello, and trim my hair. The issue with my hair is that the skin disruptions from my Vectibix are particularly annoying on my scalp, where they are intersecting badly with the hair follicles and hair oil. It's too late to shave me bald — I'd be a bloody mess from that close a trim — but we can take the clippers and buzz me pretty close without too much disruption. Likewise my facial hair, which I can buzz down but not shave skin smooth.

My skin, after all, is no longer smooth.

Put simply, thanks to the drug side effects, I have worse acne now than I ever did even deep in my difficult teen years. Pimples, whiteheads, the occasional blackhead, rashes, dry spots, mysterious little scabs, chapped lips. If you can name a skin condition, I probably have a version of it somewhere on my body now. Pretty much everything except necrotizing fasciitis.

I feel ugly. I feel distinctly unattractive. I feel hideous. I feel marked and marred.

And this was depressing me, deeply.

I'm not normally someone who measures his worth by his looks. (Thank Ghu for that, or I'd have been a basket case years ago.) On my best day, I'm a middle-aged fat guy with a lumpy face. I get by in the world through force of personality and certain combination of native charm and low cunning. It's hard to feel charismatic, though, when your face looks like the craters of Mercury. There's not much which can assault my towering self-confidence, but this kind of disfigurement is one of those few things.

So last night, I was very upset and depressed. I'm not especially pleased with myself or the world this morning, either, though the worst has certainly passed. At least for now. As a practical matter, I'm concerned how this mindset will affect my enjoyment of Norwescon starting this afternoon.

Normally I get by in life by simply not caring what other people think and doing pretty much what I want. I always figure if I'm having fun, people around me have the opportunity to have fun with me if it pleases them. Now, though, I feel social awkwardness and personal shame in a way that I haven't in decades. It's really messing with my mojo.

Is this because the skin conditions are visible evidence of my illness? Or is this just sheer old fashioned embarrassment? I don't know. I wish I did, because then I could banish it.

More likely, I know that in general I am wearing thin. The mortality prospects introduced by the January surgery and my shift to the status of incurable are still percolating deeply through my mind and my soul. There is ever less of me emotionally and socially. This skin thing is just an external manifestation of the degradation of so many aspects of my life. So maybe I'm fixating. I don't know.

I sure hope I get over this soon. It feels like a supreme waste of time, and of mental and emotional energy. But my face is what the world sees of me, and right now that face is a disaster. And this keeps bothering me.

Tags: cancer, health. personal, jerseygirl, radiantlisa

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