People always conjure the image of “cancer” that has been fostered and shaped thru the media. So when people would benignly ask me, “what happened to your arm?” or “oh, do you have the flu?” The look of horror and shock that flew across their face when I would respond with, “I have cancer” always made me giggle, just a little bit.
And after the initial shocked look retreated from their face, and they regained some composure, the next question/complement, “but you look so healthy?”
Most people assume the day after you’re diagnosed with cancer, all your hair falls out, you lose 30 pounds, your skin becomes pale, and you quit your job. Soooo, clearly that’s not what happened to me, and to be honest, that doesn’t happen to anyone, but for some reason people still believe they know cancer when they see it.
What is very hard to get across to the general public is cancer is a slow moving beast, it takes its time to rob you of your health and personality.
And in all fairness I have remained pretty healthy. And it’s took a year and half before I had to undergo a treatment that caused hair loss.
And for a lot of women losing all your hair is pretty traumatizing. But thanks to all those preconceived notions, I feel blessed to have kept it for as long as I did. After it was all gone and laying on the floor, and I looked at myself, my first thought, “thank God my head is round,” then quickly after, “Now I look more like a cancer patient.”
Not because I didn’t look healthy, which I do, but because now people will see me and their first thought will be “cancer.”
Even though there are countless reasons to have no hair, including medical conditions NOT cancer related. Maybe I’m just a girl who likes to keep it simple? Maybe I had such a bad reaction to a perm my hair burned off?
But no, people see me and think “cancer.”
After living in my new look for a couple of weeks, I’m really okay with it. It doesn’t bother me as much as I think it should, but I really like taking a vacation from hair maintenance. I also have a TON more counter space after putting away all the hair care products I used on a daily basis. Really, not having any hair is really, freeing. The only issue I have is my ears and head gets cold fast.
Well, to be honest, there are a couple more things that bother me about being bald:
- People “know,” or assume, I have cancer
- When people look at me it’s almost like I can read their thoughts: “OMG that girl has cancer/ she looks too young/ I wonder what kind of cancer she has/ is it rude to ask/ do I have cancer?
I’d like to think I’m being overly sensitive, but I’m pretty positive no one on the planet has ever accused me of this; AND I love people watching, and interpreting people’s subsequent behavior, and feel I’m pretty good at it.
Here is my “as evidence by:” The first week I wore my bald head with pride, at TWO separate places. And at both places I was put in a back room, hidden away from other customer’s sight. 1st place was getting my nails done, there are two front rooms and one in a back room, and despite there being seats available in the front, I was taken to the back room. Granted I liked the privacy and have total control over the TV, but I thought, “hmmm, that’s weird.”
Then later that SAME evening Dennis and I went out to dinner, for the first time, in, like, forever. We walked into a mostly empty restaurant (also it was like early bird special, because we’re old and tired, so dinner at 5 is perfectly acceptable) and were seated in a back booth, next to the kitchen.
Maybe this is just a coincidence (and Dennis moved us to the very front btw), but still it seems odd.
I think along with all the media related thoughts, the main thing people relate to cancer is death. So when people see me, and my bald head, it reminds them their life too has an expiration date. And yes, I am young, and yes you could have cancer, and yes we’re all gonna die sometime. Sorry I should have said “spoiler alert.”
My only hope in serving as a reminder of mortality is people take, maybe just moment, to make the most of their lives. Eat the cake, take the day off, stop feeling bad about your bat-wing arm, stop counting calories, let people catch you singing/dancing in your car, don’t compare yourself to anyone, stop giving a shit about how many cars are parked at the neighbor’s house (or really anything happening at the neighbor’s house, unless it involves safety and you intend to do something about it, not just make assumptions and do nothing), stop believing that you’re right and everyone else is wrong, stop telling everyone to think the same as you. Give yourself and others permission to be happy. Have fun because it’s not gonna last.