As I get older, I also get wiser (go with me on this one). I learn lessons through my own experiences and perceptions of other experiences. Now I find that I am a teacher.
My dearest sister likes to point out that I like to learn my lessons the hard way. I am the one who is most likely to try out the bad idea – just to see if I can do it. I like to point out to my dearest sister that sometimes I can! Other times just make good stories.
Now that I have breast cancer, I realize that I can take my craptastic adventure and teach others the importance of two things: 1) live your life now! Don’t wait until it is more convenient. Don’t wait until your dreams come knocking on your door. Live it while the livin’ is good. And 2) take your life (and health) seriously, but not at the expense of leading a life that you think sucks.
With the start of my chemotherapy, I was told that I WILL lose my hair. Even though the internet said there was a chance it wouldn’t happen. The trained and smart doctors said it WILL happen (they keep calling me young, so clearly they are right). Knowing I was to lose my hair, I came up with a plan. This takes the proverbial lemons and makes a mighty tasty margarita. I was depressed at the thought of losing my hair. The only thing that would make it worse is the prospect that the Bean would be afraid or freaked out in some way by this. The internet said to talk to her about it. Done. But I was still worried. Mainly because I was sure it was going to be a great big sob fest of me alone in the bathroom with a pair of clippers. THAT sounded HORRIBLE – so I changed the ending to that story.
I decided that one things that most 6-year-old kids never get to do is cut REAL HAIR. They never get to design a hairstyle for their mom. And they never get to feel good about mom’s diagnosis of cancer. So I decided to turn something truly scary to me (and her) into a “fun family haircut night”. She was so excited that right after I did my first chemo treatment, she asked when she gets to cut my hair. She had ideas of how she wanted to do it and questioned if I “really meant it”. I assured her that I did mean it, but we had to wait until the hair was falling out.
Finally, the day came. My hair was really falling out. In clumps. In handfuls. I freaked out! My hair was in a pony tail at the time and I was terrified to take the rubber band out. I knew a huge clump of hair was going to come out. I also knew that night was the wrong time. I needed time to have a little pity party before I could face the music. Thanks to my dear friend for letting me cry on her shoulder that night, out of sight from the kiddo.
The next night, we ate dinner and set up the hair-cutting supplies on the kitchen floor and off we went. My mom and kiddo took turns chopping and styling and spiking and Mohawking and hair horns and anything that seemed fun at the time. Once we were done with the styles, the kiddo used the clippers to buzz cut my hair. The kiddo seemed to really have fun, as did mom. Upon reflection of the evening, it was very ceremonial. It was cathartic for me to watch my beautiful daughter in the mirror taking such care in cutting my hair off. When done, she couldn’t keep her hands off my head – just touching and stroking the hair that was left.
Finally – I had one more plan that was inappropriate for the kiddo. So she went to bed and I asked my mom to use the clippers to write a special little phrase that I have to cancer in my hair. My mom – who does not curse – ever – wrote “FUCK CANCER” in my hair. Then – to make sure the kiddo didn’t see it, she shaved my head (and the message with it). Hubby was there to take pictures of the whole event and I felt so empowered (and a little cold from the lack of hair). I shared pictures of my new doo with my sister and a couple of friends. And now, I am working on really owning this whole no hair thing… I’ll have to report back on how that goes.
I know that I am teaching my daughter many things. Some are intentional, some not intentional through my actions. I do hope that this experience can teach her that sometimes really bad things happen. Sometimes you get scared. But you can only be brave if you face your fears and look for the silver lining in everything you do. Sometimes the silver lining is really hard to find, but it is there.