By Carolyn Newman
Cancer puts life into a new perspective. You may have heard others say that and for certain this is true. I have found that I see situations in a new light. I have also been shown that every day really is a gift and that even when you have cancer, if you know you will be okay in the long term, you appreciate your life just a little more.
I think more importantly, I have found that the people who are in my life (and my family’s life) are the most important people in the world. I explained it to my friends that it’s the humanity of it all, that keeps me so alive, so appreciative of the gift of friends and family.
So, when my hair left the building, I couldn’t get used to looking at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t really see me. Thankfully, everyone told me how good I looked. Certainly, that was a boost to a downright sucky situation. I had pretty much given up wearing the wig I bought because let me tell you…
THAT WAS THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE thing I had ever felt. So, I wore a particular hat and bandanas. I was reminded almost daily of a friend, a judge (woman) who sat on the bench with her bald head for everyone to see. I would never ever be there, but I admired this woman’s courage.
Not only show the world her bald head and identify herself as a cancer patient, but go to work every day, sit on the bench, be a good judge, all the while she is battling her own war. What courage… a role model. A friend explained to me that for most cancer patients, you almost want to blend in with a crowd, rather than be stared at or identified, thus giving you your own sense of normalcy in an otherwise abnormal situation. That’s pretty much how I saw it too.
When my hair began to leave the building, we decided to tell our kids what would happen. They pretty much knew everything about their mommy other than the word Cancer. They knew that I was taking very powerful drugs for the 6 months, they saw me in bed, not feeling well, and they saw me rather normal. My husband, Steve and I were so concerned about how they would react to my baldness.
Even 6 and 8 year olds have that “humanity” I mentioned earlier… Paul, my wonderfully adorable son, had been most terrific. Steve and I sat him down and we asked him how he felt about mommy not wearing a hat or bandana in the house around him…. His response was priceless… “I don’t care,” he said, “mommy you are still beautiful and you are my mommy”. Then he kissed me on my forehead, hugged me and walked away, looked back and gave me a smile that could melt any mother.
Truly a memorable and emotional moment.
Freddi, our intuitive, smart and beautiful little girl cried as her mommy’s hair was cut. She feared that I was changing and she was so upset at the prospect of my impending baldness. I comforted her and as usual, Freddi found the humor side of it and quickly began to tell jokes, laughed at her crying and recognizing that her mommy was right there in front of her. And always will be there. She was so proud to tell everyone about how “we” donated my hair to help children who needed it more than I did.
What I learned that week in July, 2006, was how much I appreciated support from friends, family and other survivors. It was my life-line and what propelled me to stay positive and fight. I was so lucky to have them all in my world.
Life is a gift. The people in your lives are what make it so. Savor the moments. I certainly am.