Fashion and beauty magazines paint a more varied picture of beauty than they once did, but that picture is still a tiny one in a rigid frame. Whether you're a blonde, brunette or redhead, you can be one of the beautiful people -- but only if you're tall and willowy. What about women who have lost their hair after cancer treatment? What about those who have lost limbs or other body parts following surgery? What about those whose fight has etched fresh lines on a once-smooth face?

You are beautiful too.

By one school of aesthetic thought, you have a transcendent beauty that no merely pretty model could hope to match.

The Japanese concept of wabi-sabi embraces the transience of beauty. In this artistic philosophy, weathering and visible repairs only make something more beautiful because they show both the changes an object has undergone and its enduring quality. Although your cancer has changed you, you remain; that makes you uniquely beautiful. The changes you've undergone show the living, vibrant woman you are all the more clearly.

Embracing wabi-sabi beauty in theory is one thing, but facing it daily in the mirror is a more difficult proposition. Every woman in any state of health sometimes sees the beautiful teen or adorable child she was, and it's impossible not to compare your current self with that mental picture. You may feel that the present you suffer by comparison, but those around you see you differently. They see your present beauty, and even if they don't know the name of it, they recognize the principle of wabi-sabi.

Embrace your present self openly and honestly. If you've lost weight from chemotherapy treatments or undergone surgery that changed your appearance, choose fashions that suit you today, not what you might have worn years ago. Older clothing that is now too large for you emphasizes your weight loss, while a new outfit that fits will flatter you. Contrast draws the eye, so use it to your advantage when picking out new clothes. A colorful printed scarf with plenty of contrast brings attention to your face and doubles as a wrap for thinning hair if you feel more comfortable with your head covered.


Let makeup help your outer self reflect your inner self. On good days, few things bring you down faster than a well-meaning friend's concerned looks. Wabi-sabi embraces change, and that includes the changes wrought by a dab of lipstick and a touch of eyeliner. Befriend your new face and practice with new makeup techniques. Blush on the apples of your cheeks might not have worked in your teens, but it may be a great look for you now. If your lashes and brows have grown sparse, experiment with new lining techniques.

The average one-year survival rate after a diagnosis of mesothelioma related to asbestos exposure is 40 percent. You are more than a statistic, though; you're an individual, a unique work of wabi-sabi art. Every woman deserves to feel beautiful, none more so than those who have weathered so many changes. Walk the path of the wabi-sabi aesthetic and love the beautiful, enduring self you are today.