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While I was going through active treatment and recovering from procedures and surgeries, certain moments during the day triggered this thought in my head, This is what cancer looks like. I envisioned a still shot of that moment and that title above it.

One of the first times I had this thought was when I was lying on the couch watching my daughter play. I was fatigued and my heart was racing, but I was still a mom needing to supervise my 2-year-old.  She came over and held my hand. 

This is what cancer looks like.

In the days following chemo, the house would slowly become an absolute disaster. My mom came and did all my laundry (hallelujah to that!) but the rest of the house was neglected. One day I was looking at the biggest pile of dirty dishes I had ever seen on my counter.

This is what cancer looks like.

RELATED: Pray For the Mamas With Cancer

Late one night, 13 days after my first chemo and feeling the loss of control, I decided to take charge. My scalp had started hurting and strands of my hair were coming out as I touched my hair. The hair that had become part of my identity. My husband asked if I was sure, and I had never been so sure and unsure at the same time in my life. He started by cutting my hair into a bob. We looked at it and smiled. He continued by shaving my hair. I couldn’t look in the mirror. 

Clumps of my hair lay all over the floor. 

He finished, and I looked in the mirror. Stoic and shocked at the same time. My husband said, “You look like a warrior,” and at that moment, I felt like it.

This is what cancer looks like. 

No words came out of my mouth. A stranger looked at me in the mirror. Tears started to fill my eyes. I now looked like a cancer patient. No long, blonde hair. No hair at all.  My husband asked a question, but his words did not process in my head. I took a shower and allowed myself a 20-minute cry.

This is what cancer looks like. 

RELATED: Cancer is Something I Carry With Me Now

I could write pages and pages about when I had this thought, but I’ll end on this one.  Survivorship also has moments that I think deserve still shots. These, too, are etched into my memory.

When my treatments got very hard on my body, I lost my amazing ability to fall asleep easily. My doctor prescribed a sleep aid. It literally knocked me out. My daughter crawled into bed, and I had no idea. My husband showed me the picture the next day, and, again, I thought with a smile, This is what cancer looks like.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page.

Charissa Bates

Charissa is a Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivor at the age of 33. She has three beautiful children and works part-time as a mental health therapist. Writing has become empowering and therapeutic. Standstill: A Young Mom Conquering Triple Negative Breast Cancer will be available on her "Cancerversary" on December 12, 2022. Two other children’s books will be coming soon: We Find Joy (Cancer Messed with the Wrong Family) & The Traveling Book. Charissa runs https://www.facebook.com/FindingJoyPress and Salt Shaker Ministries. Also operates Busy Moms Need Jesus (facebook.com/busymomsneedjesus) with her friend, Abbey.

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