a tale of two ladies

As a follow up to my last post, I’d like to share some thoughts on my “real” face. I’m so glad that I have the right tools to help me blend in. To the inventors of eyeliner, eye brow pencils and wigs, I humbly say thank you. As my friend Priscilla put it, “[It’s nice to] take a public break from cancer.”

In no way was I trying to deceive you. I want you to see the spectrum of my looks for two reasons: 1. It’s helpful to see the many faces of cancer for the sake of education. 2. If we run into each other in public, or you stop by my house, I want you to be prepared. 

This is my home face. This is what my kids and husband see on the daily: 


Except I have less eyebrows now. 

I’m not trying to shock you or make you sad. I’m sensitive to any kind of emotional manipulation; that stuff drives me nuts. It is what it is. 

In every trial there are treasures to behold. There is a silver lining of losing my hair, my eyebrows, my glow (that I did not realize I had)…and my breasts, as I know them. 

Since I passed that peak of youth around my mid-20s–when all was perky and there was no grey–I’ve had a real fear of aging. I feared losing the beauty that I knew was only skin deep, but I still wanted it intact for as long as possible. I wondered at women who seemed able to embrace their new, old bodies and don a swimsuit at the beach. I worried that my face would feel masked by wrinkles. I dreaded that day when a young whipper snapper would see a picture of me in my youth with no discernible link to my 80-year-old face and she would say, “You were beautiful.” You were beautiful…

And then cancer happened. At 38, I’ve been stripped of beauty. My eyelashes are still falling out and my eyelids are so puffy and red. I know it will get better, but it’s still in the “getting worse” phase. Everyday, I feel less like a female.

I know I’m still me, but it’s undeniable that there is a chasm between these two ladies:
 I have been surprised to find the one on the right is more approachable, in a way.

I’ve always been nervous around men. (If I ever write a book, I’ll unpack that. Just know that I’ve been unusually nervous around men, K?) I’ve forever been worried that I’m going to accidentally send a romantic vibe or a seem flirtatious. It goes both ways, I think. It’s kind of normal, right? That worry is all gone. No man is worried he is going to be mistaken for hitting on me right now. My male friends are free to affirm me and their love for me without any inhibition or worry that this is something sexual. It’s rich. It’s like being an old, loveable grandma and being loved for what matters. It’s something that younger women and men should look forward to. It’s way better than the beauty. 

I wish we could simulate this in our youth, but I’m afraid my imagination hasn’t figured out a way. In the meantime, I am eating it up. While I am so tired of being bald, puffy and unattractive, I’m grateful to experience at least one of the treasures of faded beauty.

8 thoughts on “a tale of two ladies

  1. Dear Jenna,
    This was a very refreshing and revealing piece. Contrary to what you believe, I think you’re an excellent writer. I like that you state simply some of the things we’ve also been pondering, making them feel less complex, and seemingly with ease. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and I appreciate these updates.
    And for the record, you are, and always will be a beautiful soul with lovely eyes and great bone structure no matter how old you are. 💋🙏🏻


  2. You are so wise, Jenna, to see the actual benefits of your current beauty. And you are beautiful. You help me appreciate the benefits of being where I am now, with people looking at photos of my 20’s me and asking, “Is that YOU?” I have always been grateful for my age and wouldn’t go back a day, but you help me to embrace the current face, crepe paper wrinkles and all, because you are embracing yours. Thank you.


  3. Honest and pure insight as always. Love you. To those who want “gender neutrality” I seriously wonder if they would feel the same way if they weren’t given a choice by the ravages of chemo. I understand on one level the feeling of losing femininity when I had to undergo a complete hysterectomy. It didn’t show on the outside but I felt it piercingly on the inside. I thought I was no longer a woman with those parts gone and the hormones gone too. I’m in no way saying this is the same experience. But I can empathize with some of those feelings. And what I can give to you is that you are still you the person God created and knew before you were born. In His eyes you are still a princess. And in mine….beautiful. Brave and beautiful.


  4. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to heaven, we were all going the other way – in short the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
    You, Jenna, are incomparable. Peace & Love


  5. Dear Sweet Jenna,
    You are absolutely amazing!!! I continue to be in absolute awe of YOU and your writing. You MUST write a book. In fact, I think this blog/picture -journey is your book, your story, and your powerful testimony. This could be made into the most amazing devotional ever. So many women (and men) could be inspired by your amazing testimony and journey. I just KNOW God will see you through this crisis!! He can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!!!! Your faith continues to grow and mature and deepen and you are inspiring so many along their faith walk with your honesty, unbelievably positive outlook, sense of humor and undeniable trust in Jesus. You are absolutely beautiful inside and out. You radiate Jesus, Jenna. I truly mean it. You are beautiful in all of your hats, you were striking in your wig at Brent’s event yesterday, and you are beautiful bald and with no eyelashes or eyebrows. I mean it. You are one of the most stunning women I have ever known. I am soooo incredibly sorry you have had to endure such physical pain and emotional turmoil for so long – but I know God will turn this cancer mess into a message. You are God’s precious daughter and His plans for you are extraordinary, Jenna. He loves you so – and so do I. Love, Joy


  6. Oh my gosh I feel the same! I was naturally pretty and never wore makeup. Now I’m bald and barren just like my biggest fear. I hope to be like the confident women with cancer but I fear I’ll be insecure until my old (older) self is back. You aren’t alone and there is safety in numbers! Much love!


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