As a child growing up in the sixties I was aware of the look for women. It was the decade of freshly-scrubbed faces like Cheryl Tiegs and Lauren Hutton; blonde hair, button noses and a slender, athletic body. The Beach Boys were singing about those California girls surfing in itsy, bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka-dot bikinis (okay, that was a Brian Hyland song).
The girls in my elementary school (yes, it starts that young) wanted to look like these women, and tried to emulate them. The Women’s Liberation Movement was just coming into it’s own, so before we were “liberated” we spent hours carefully combing through the pages of Seventeen or Vogue magazine. I remember closing the door of my parent’s bathroom and using my mother’s makeup to try to look just like Cheryl Tiergs. I also used Sun-In on my hair so my naturally curly brown hair would somehow, miraculously, turn to blonde after being outdoors. Ha! Those were impressionable years, and those impressions certainly stayed with me. I never wanted to stand out in a crowd, but I certainly yearned to fit in.
Fast-forward to my MS diagnosis. I understood that I had this chronic illness, but I didn’t want to stand out. I wanted to be athletic and beautiful (or beautifully athletic?) because it had been ingrained in my head that this is what will make me happy. I didn’t want anyone to help me when my legs were clumsy. Bicycling and running were activities I wanted to continue to enjoy. I despised being catered to and I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. But this was not meant to be.
Everyday I fight my little (and sometimes big) battles with my illness. I can no longer run and I haven’t tried to bike in years. My husband has to pick up my “slack” each day because of my constant fatigue. I have had to say “no” to a lot of people many times because of MS symptoms, and I’ve also had to explain to others that I have MS even though I don’t “look” like I do. I don’t like having to do any of this. Admitting I needed help was harder at first. It bothered me and caused me periods of great stress and depression. Over the years I’ve come to the realization I am blessed to have people around who care about me. I also figured no one goes through life without having some medical malady that will affect them; so this is mine. In the end, I may not look like Cheryl Tiegs and I certainly can’t play tennis like Chris Evert (ok, I am dating myself again!) but I am the best Cathy Chester I can be. That is all I really need to be, eh?
Published On: November 21, 2011