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Posts Tagged ‘baldness’

About being bald. It was similar to being pregnant. Actually, the cancer treatment experience was similar to being pregnant in that the first four or five months were private – only my near & dear knew what was going on. As soon as the belly popped or my hair came off, the experience became public domain. When I was pregnant, there were those with poor boundaries who felt they had carte blanche to touch my belly, and a few that made thoughtless remarks about the apparently large size of my baby; but most people were exceedingly kind and proffered glowing compliments or blessings, held doors, and gave up their seats on the subway, and, for the most part, I enjoyed the extra attention. Which was also how I felt about being bald.

There was only one instance in which a person thought that bald was a fashion choice; all others knew that hairless meant cancer and few hid their concern. Because people were generally lovely and caring, I didn’t mind their questions about my health or the conversations that ensued, the stories that folks shared about how cancer impacted their lives. Those chats were always positive and uplifting at best, and informative at least. There was only one instance in which my bald head attracted a disturbing incident.

A man, a stranger, encountered me in a health food store and assumed that my treatment plan was up for discussion. He had strong opinions against chemo therapy and couldn’t understand why a health-minded person such as myself who chose to buy organic would also choose to take the poison. Like a pesky mosquito, he followed me from the produce section to the juice bar buzzing about my ear with his opinions until I turned on my heel and swatted him.  Actually, I wish I swatted him. I think I said, “thank you for sharing,” and ran off hyperventilating.

What I wish I had said was “God forbid you ever have to find out what you would do if faced with the decision to trust your oncologist’s expertise or not; but until you have a cancer experience, keep your opinions to yourself.”

(Phew, that was cathartic.)

Otherwise,as I said, like pregnancy, bald was an amazing experience, but I’m grateful it was temporary and that I, once again, can blend in with the rest of the hairy human race.

In awe,

L.

ps. Photos courtesy of the enormously talented, generous, and lovable Carolina Kroon.

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Acadia & Grace in front of a yurt

My daughter Acadia was told that I’d have the 2nd infusion and, thus, lose my hair while she was away at Frost Valley Farm Camp, but she forgot. She was a 12 year old kid going off to her beloved Summer camp and had swimming, canoeing, goats, chickens, & friends on her mind. She didn’t clock the forewarning, or maybe she entered into a healthy denial in order to enjoy her s’mores at the campfire which was okay – it was my hope that she’d be in her moment and frolic about the farm without worry. However, the only fear she had expressed since my cancer diagnosis was that a bald head would make me look sick, and, therefore, her memory lapse made pick-up day traumatic.

As we drove along the dirt drive to the camp, I donned my favorite red baseball cap and readied myself to embrace my girl. Acadia saw our car approaching and ran out with her friend Grace to greet us, but when we turned into the parking lot, she stopped short. Her jaw dropped. The color drained from her face, and she turned on her heel and ran back to her yurt. I leapt out of the car, signaled to my husband to stay and raced past her abandoned friend with a quick, “Hey, Grace,” and as I ran I prayed. I didn’t know what I was going to say, and in the flurry, I only managed a quick “Help Me” prayer before I was inside the yurt looking at my daughter’s back while she cried and wouldn’t face me.

I looked around to get the lay of the land and was relieved to discover that there were no other campers, none of Acadia’s peers were in the space, which somehow gave me permission to focus on me, mine, and this situation. Her two counselors were there sitting on a bunk and looking at us wide-eyed, but they seemed like buffers rather than censors. So, by way of explaining to the older teen-aged girls, I tried to let my daughter know that it’s okay to have hard feelings.

I told the counselors, “I’m on chemotherapy for early stage breast cancer. When Acadia left home for camp two weeks ago, I still had all my hair.”

The counselors shook their heads rapidly. Acadia’s shoulders jumped as she sniffed a few times. The air in the yurt felt thick with swirling thunderheads.

I continued, “So, this is the first time she’s seeing me bald and, naturally, she’s shocked. But,” I whipped off my baseball cap, “just touch it, Acadia. My head’s fuzzy like a tennis ball.”

And, just like Olympia Dukakis breaking the tension for the grieving Sally Field in Steel Magnolias by suggesting that she take a whack at Ouiser, the surprise element worked. Acadia sniffed and then she giggled.

“Go on, give my Buddha head a rub. It’s good luck.”

My daughter turned around, faced me, and smiled.

In awe of the power of prayer and mirth,

L.

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