Tag Archives: hair loss

Surviving Breast Cancer

Today, Sarah at This Heavenly Life is featuring breast cancer survivor stories. This is the story of someone who fought to be a survivor, of a woman who proudly proclaimed that she was a 26-year survivor of breast cancer. As we were facing the fact that her breast cancer had become a pit bull that was about to devour her, my mom told me that she did not want to give up. How can I come to terms with the fact that she is not a survivor any longer? It seems like I miss her more, not less, as each day passes. I am trying to weather the storm of grief, but it is one long and nasty storm.

Not only am I struggling with grief, but my two daughters are trying to understand losing their grandma. They are so young that the concept of death is difficult to grasp. My little Emmy, who just turned three, has asked me more than once, “When is Grandma going to be alive again?”

I wrote the following paragraphs in March of 2009, while Lily, then four, was trying to understand that Grandma was sick.

Lily has always been very close with my mom. Grandma stayed with her for four days while Ed and I were in the hospital with baby Emmy, and that cemented their bond even more. Before our trip to Iowa, my sister asked if I had prepared Lily for seeing her Grandma. That day, very casually, I asked Lily how she thought Grandma would be when we saw her again. She knew my mom had gone through her “treatments” since the last time we saw her, and was now bald “like Daddy.” What I think took her aback when she did see Grandma was how different various medications had made Grandma’s face look, along with Grandma’s lack of hair. My mom has taken to wearing hats and no wig, just as I did. As soon as she got special hugs and kisses from Grandma, though, everything was all right. Later, Lily confided to me that Grandma’s hair was going to grow back, just like our willow tree will grow back in the spring.

The weeping willow has always been my favorite tree. One stood in our front yard in Nebraska when I was very young. Their tiny leaves and twigs scatter everywhere in the breeze, and yet when a strong wind blows, the willow is more apt to bend, not break. After a storm, it is the maple trees that lose the biggest branches. May we be like the willow when storms sweep through our lives, as good weather is bound to reappear.

Grandma’s hair did grow back, curly and white. The cancer had aged her, however, beyond her 66 years. She died in November, 2009.

During the month of October, Bigger Picture Blogs has been hosting a wonderful event called “Write Pink!” Melissa, Sarah, and Hyacynth, the founders of Bigger Picture Blogs, have been working very hard during the month of Breast Cancer Awareness to spread the news about preventing breast cancer. Not only that, but they have some great giveaways that are still open! Go visit Bigger Picture Blogs to enter!

Making Connections

Lily has always been very close with my mom. Grandma stayed with her for four days while Ed and I were in the hospital with baby Emmy, and that cemented their bond even more. Before our trip to Iowa, my sister asked if I had prepared Lily for seeing her Grandma. That day, very casually, I asked Lily how she thought Grandma would be when we saw her again. She knew my mom had gone through her “treatments” since the last time we saw her, and was now bald “like Daddy.” What I think took her aback when she did see Grandma was how different certain medications had made Grandma’s face look, along with Grandma’s lack of hair. My mom has taken to wearing hats and no wig, just as I did. As soon as she got special hugs and kisses from Grandma, though, everything was all right. Later, Lily confided to me that Grandma’s hair was going to grow back, just like our willow tree will grow back in the spring.

We took the girls to see their Great-Grandma. She had been sick, and so I asked her if she had asked for help from the nurse that is on staff in her building. No, she said–she is afraid they will take her to the hospital. I admire her desire for independence, but am glad her friends check on her! I brought her jam from my sister, and she told me, “Oh, I don’t go down for breakfast. I like to stay here and have some toast and jam.” Grandma, you’re priceless!

On our last night, Mom, my sisters and I lie on Mom’s bed, talking. No matter how old we grow, we continue to plop down next to Mom, ready to talk, ready to listen.

The weeping willow has always been my favorite tree. One stood in our front yard in Nebraska when I was very young. Their tiny leaves and twigs scatter everywhere in the breeze, and yet when a strong wind blows, the willow is more apt to bend, not break. After a storm, it is the maple trees that lose the biggest branches. May we be like the willow when storms sweep through our lives, as good weather is bound to reappear.

Black Wool Hat

It’s dark now, at 5:30 in the afternoon, and I pull on my black, wool hat as I walk out the door to pick Lily up from ballet class. The edge of the hat touches my bare forehead, and I reach my hand up to scratch. My hair is tucked behind my ears, peeking out from under my hat. It’s cold tonight, and I pull on my gloves. It hasn’t been so long ago that I wore a different black wool hat, with a brim and a black ribbon around it. But it wasn’t so cold, and my unprotected scalp itched all the way around. It was fall, and school had begun. Students said, “It’s not fair! You get to wear a hat in school and we can’t!” The seven-year-olds in my second grade class knew the truth, that cancer (or rather the chemo) had caused my hair to fall out. But I had almost broken down and cried while confessing the reason for the hat. So I never explained to other students. I was too afraid that I would cry. The old adage is “Never let them see you smile until after Thanksgiving.” A teacher crying? Over a hat? I smiled and waved the questions away.

As my hair grew back, my colleagues said they’d miss my hat. I was so cute in my hat. Keep wearing it, they said. I liked my hat. It served its purpose well, hiding my hairless head from little eyes and keeping cold drafts at bay. But I never wore that black, wool hat again.

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