Jul 25

As of this spring, my wardrobe was a sorry state of affairs.  For the past six years, I have not had an outside-the-house job.  My needs have been minimal.  I’m practical and frugal, so it didn’t make sense to me to spend lots of money on short-term clothes.  Over those years, I have gained and lost weight.  I’ve had four pregnancies; (yes, I had two miscarriages).  Easy, washable, and comfortable have been the priorities as I went about my mom jobs and my mom life.  I was hesitant to get rid of anything because I wasn’t sure what would fit when the next season change came.  I had one “date night” outfit per season, and the rest of my wardrobe was very basic.

Over the winter, I got within range of what I consider to be my “normal” weight.  In early spring, the answer to, “Will we have more children?” was answered very abruptly with my cancer diagnosis:  “No, we will  not.”  We will love the two we have and we will be grateful for each day with them.  These two factors put me in a position where I felt it wasn’t frivolous to put together a (small, modest) wardrobe that would make me feel confident and appropriate in my everyday life.

This spring, I was in desperate need of some new clothing pieces with the goal being about ten workable outfits for the spring/summer.  In late March and early April, I found myself gravitating towards dresses.  For one, it seemed simpler to find one piece: a dress.  With all of the logistics I had going on, this seemed easier than finding two pieces that both matched and complimented me.  My spring/summer wardrobe is now eighty percent dresses.  They are easy, they are comfortable, and they are forgiving of my imperfect figure.  For the most part I feel pretty confident.  Another part of my brain, I think, recognized that I have no hair, I have terrible acne from the chemo, I’m unable to work out with the rigor and frequency that I would like, and soon I will have a bilateral mastectomy.

I think I’m wearing a lot of dresses because, on some level, I want to amp up the girlie factor.

I want to feel feminine and beautiful and confident.  (Doesn’t every woman want this?)   Thankfully, I have pretty good self-esteem.  I worked hard for it in my early twenties.  I also have a fabulous husband who regularly makes me feel great about myself.  And, at the end of the day, I know my real God-given beauty is on the inside.  I am grateful that I am satisfied with the woman who looks back at me in the mirror.  Feeling good about life starts with feeling good about yourself.

Most of my dresses are playground appropriate and suitable for me to wear everyday with my girls.  I throw on leggings if I’m going to be tackling monkey bars or bouncy houses.  Yes, I’ve done both this summer, thank-you-very-much.  Athleta dresses (only purchased from the sale/clearance section) are my hands down favorite; they are just “me.”  My mom found me some excellent ones from Eddie Bauer.  And I discovered Lands’ End has some great styles of knit dresses for every day wear.  I’ve never been one that has a firm grasp on fashion, so accessories seemed unnecessary and overwhelming.  Hats and scarves came on the scene along with chemo though, so I’ve ended up with far more stylish combinations (thanks, again, to loved ones) than I anticipated.  My girlfriends, honestly, are shaking their heads in amazement.  I’ve never been The Cute One before.  How ironic that I’m The Cute (Bald) One?  I know, right?

I feel good that I’ve traded in my yoga pants and my stretched-out shirts for a handful of pieces that work for this season of life.  Having cancer is essentially a part time (full time?) job.  I have appointments to go to: I want/need to have intelligent conversations with doctors and professionals about my treatment plan.  For these appointments, I need to dress for success (pardon the cliche).  Almost half of my outfits were gifted to me by people who love me and who get that I am not letting the cancer define me.

I wear cancer in my baldness, on my mottled skin, in my tired eyes.  It’s there and I’m not embarassed or ashamed or shy about it.  I don’t hide it.  Maren reached up and pulled off my hat in Panera this week, and I kept it off while we finished our meal.  I’m doing cancer, people.  This is real life.

I balance the baldness and the cancer-y stuff with the dresses.  I’m amping up my femininity and my style because it helps me feel good.  And, thankfully, I know I’m worth it.  I pray everyone can know this truth.

Charm only gets you so far and beauty fades away, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.  –Proverbs 31:30


  1. I love how you refer to it as your season in life. Dress for the life you’re living right now. I love dresses too. 🙂 Praying and sending you hugs!

  2. suenitz /

    Jen you are such a beautiful being! You have learned what it sometimes takes a lifetime to learn. I commend your parents as I feel their unconditional love for each other and for you has helped you to become the confident beautiful woman you are. But most important you give the glory to God for His gifts. You are not caught up in this materialistic world and realize as long as you try your hardest to do what is right and to love, you are doing today well. You are developing a relationship with God that will see you through anything life presents you. You are a wonderful, beautiful soul and I, like so many others, feel blessed to know you. I have to tell you, yesterday when I passed you running, the smile you gave me was like someone giving me a bouquet of flowers. Thank you. Much love to you.

  3. I love how your beauty always shines through your writing. I have no doubt it shines through your physical presence as well. You are quite a lady…in dresses or in yoga pants!!
    Sending hugs…

  4. Marion /

    I had to giggle at this post. Because I have only met you this year, you have always been stylish and cute! I love your attitude and approach. Thank you for sharing it with us! I pray that yesterday was another great chemo day.

  5. Karen Almand /

    Hi Jen-I don’t know you and I think I have commented before-quite a while ago. I’m a mother of two girls and I live in Memphis, TN. But I’m still here-reading and praying and loving you! You’ve got this, girl-you are so rockin your cancer! You are kicking it’s sorry ass! (strong word-but so fitting) Keep smiling and keep up that beautiful, positive attitude. You inspire me! Sincerely, Karen Almand

  6. Smiling. That was good. Embracing your style is AWESOME! You are what Mary would look like today. I’m sure.

  7. Tina Mathie /

    Jen, you are so Kick-ass!! You are a beautiful person inside and out! You are such a motivational speaker too!! When you are finished kicking cancer’s dirty, rotten keester (sp?) You should be a motivational speaker to ladies and moms and teenage girls and ladies battling the “evil C”. Your writing makes me want to jump around the house and scream about loving life and being happy! I just love you too bits!!

  8. Rachel /

    Good for you! You have an amazing attitude and a good heart and while I don’t know you, I suspect this shines through brighter than any sparkly accessory. I had my third little munchkin about the same time you had Greta and while I’m doing my best to get my body back to the one I remember loving so much before kids…it sometimes feels quite futile. 3 kids, a full-time job and a husband who travels leaves little time for me- so I hear you on the fashion frustration. I, too, stare into a sea of clothes in 4 different sizes…none of which seem to fit just right. I’m going to check out the Athletica dresses now! Stay well and keep writing!

  9. Love love love this post! And hope you make a book out of all these b/c you bring up so much of the everyday that doesn’t always get brought up when someone has cancer. On a side note- as a mom I totally relate to the wardrobe thing;) prayers & hugs always!

  10. Jen ~ You are beautiful inside & out ~ Dressess are good 🙂 It is wonderful to be happy in your own skin ~ You have taught us so much 🙂 Continued Prayers 🙂

  11. Jodi /

    Still coming here all the time and continually inspired by your outlook on life, especially in this “season”. I can totally relate to the not-so-chic wardrobe and unfortunately also to the miscarriages (I am very sorry to hear about that). But, love the thought of you rockin’ the summer and baldness and life in general in pretty dresses 🙂

  12. LOVE you, Jen. Tonight we are doing the “Pink” Glass Show; everything we make will be pink, Activities staff will sell breast cancer Solstice t-shirts, and what we make will be auctioned away for the Breast Cancer Research Fund. I will be making a vessel that I’m calling ‘Maren’s Heart’, it will be more beautiful and colorful on the inside than on the outside, and it will have loop-de-loops all over it.
    I miss you like crazy. Send me an update and include some cute baby stories in it.