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That Hair Thing

Three years ago I shaved my head. It wasn’t for shock value; I had cancer. I had made the decision to shave my head before the chemo drugs made it fall out. I didn’t want to lose clumps of hair around the house. That was the method my mom chose when she had chemo. I wanted to face baldness straight on.

My oncologist had told me to expect my hair to begin falling out around day 18 after my first chemo treatment. I counted each day diligently until I arrived at day 18. I knew it was coming. What anticipation I had to “dare” my hair to fall out. “I’ll be the lucky one and not lose one hair,” I thought foolishly to myself.

Sure enough it happened. Day 18 in the shower, a clump came out. Darn. That evening, I planned to shave it all off. I needed the support of my daughters to be in the home with me. I could not do this alone. I would use the grooming kit we had bought for our two Shih Tzus.

I’ll never forget the feeling of taking that first swipe across my head. I was full of emotion. I thought of Britney Spears and how 5 years earlier she had shaved her head. This was different. Either I would shave my head or let chemo have its way. I wanted to win and just be in control of something.

My hair had been my glory. For years, stylists had commented on how thick my hair was or how much hair I had. It was one of my finest features. I spent hundreds of dollars keeping it coifed and colored. Let’s face it. My hair was a hobby.

God knew I needed a little humility. I was vain about my hair. I needed a reality check so I could have compassion. I needed a reason to turn to God and acknowledge He was in control of my life. I needed poverty of spirit to detach from this crown of glory.

Being bald in the winter time in Kansas humbled me. Being bald also screamed to the world “I have cancer.” Being bald was a good lesson for me. It forced me to face my own mortality and my vanity. It gave me compassion. It helped me realize it’s what’s inside my heart that counts; not what’s on my head.

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This is me with my friend Amy on the day she had her head shaved. We were both undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

I went proudly to the rest of my chemo treatments as a bald patient. We were all bald together and it was affirming to be in unity with other cancer patients. We were getting chemo so we could have a chance to survive. Our hair was the least of our worries.

In the end, it was an honor to be bald and not have a covering for my head. I learned to be more transparent and not hide behind my hair. The time with no hair was transforming for me. It put things in perspective especially when a friend asked me to join her when she shaved her head. I understood.

1 Corinthians 11:15 “but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.”

Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

The 1st Thanksgiving

This was my 4th Thanksgiving as a single, separated (not yet divorced) mother. I’ll admit, it’s become much easier. This year, my heart was drawn to all of my friends and relatives who are single. The holiday season can be a time of loneliness. I chose to keep my mind focused on those who were single or widowed and pray for them throughout my day. This brought me peace.

This year was much different from my first Thanksgiving as a separated mother. My first year apart from my daughters was a shock. It wpumpkin-704626_1280as 2012 and I had been diagnosed with breast cancer on October 29th. My plans had been to be in Florida with my family and extended family. We had planned a beach-front Thanksgiving vacation six months in advance. Instead of the beach, I found myself alone in Little Rock with breast
cancer. Devastation.

It appeared God was playing the cruelest of jokes on me. I had discovered an unfaithful husband and Stage 2 breast cancer a month earlier. It didn’t seem real to me and it didn’t seem like my life. Up until that point, I had not suffered an illness or a loss of that magnitude. But, I would soon discover, God showed up for me everywhere I turned.

The first place I discovered God that Thanksgiving was in my father. He had buried my mom just four months earlier in July 2012. My parents had been married 51 years when my mom died of cancer. She had struggled for 8 years with what began as colon cancer. Had it not been for my circumstances, my dad would have been left at home alone for his first Thanksgiving without his wife. I was so grateful to be with him. How could I possibly mope around all weekend when my father was grieving?

On Thanksgiving morning, the two of us went to Mass. The priest reminded us to be thankful. I had to dig deep into my heart to be thankful for anything. I soon discovered I was truly thankful I had a father who was still alive and could sit with me in worship. I was thankful I had three brothers who I could depend on to help me. I was thankful I was alive and the cancer was treatable.

The second place I discovered God was at a wedding. My father and I attended a Saturday evening wedding that weekend. The groom was one of my dad’s golfing buddies. I witnessed two senior citizens giddy with love. Their love offered me hope. I realized that sad times had preceded this wedding because both bride and groom had lost their first spouses. There was a moment in the wedding where the priest remembered both of their former spouses. Tears were shed.

The groom’s daughter, who I met for the first time at the wedding, was a breast cancer survivor. She shared her story with me at the reception and filled me with confidence. I knew that I could go back home and tackle my cancer. It was as if God had placed me at that wedding to show me He had plans for me. I just needed to trust Him because He had my back.

Yes, this Thanksgiving was much easier and time has helped heal my wounds. But more than time, the family God gave me has helped me heal. I have a father and three brothers who I love. I also have a heavenly Father and many brothers and sisters in Christ who sustain me in my weakness and loneliness. God has proven himself over and over to me these last 4 Thanksgiving holidays.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9

Uncategorized

Pink Threads

As I sit and write this morning, a friend of mine is living her last days. I would barely call it living, as she is unconscious as her body is shutting down. She is home with family and friends and hospice is helping keep her comfortable. Breast cancer spread to her bones and brain.

pink threadsThis special friend lives in my former neighborhood and we met about 5 years ago. She was diagnosed three months before I was in 2012 and we often compared notes about our treatment. I remember a walk we took in 2013, when we were both bald. We didn’t have to talk much, but I remember doing a lot of laughing. It was freezing that day and we understood the real purpose of hair: warmth.

I’m going to miss this friend so much, but will always remember her encouragement. She rallied for 5 months after being told she had one week to live. I believe God was encouraging her to live life until He decided she had one week to live.

I noticed after my diagnosis, God placed women in my life who I needed to know. These women were and still are great gifts to me. They are like pink threads connecting me to the world. My former neighbor was an encouragement even though she was struggling more than me. She connected me to being happy no matter my circumstance in life.

Another special friend, who happens to be my boss, decided to host a “Breast Cancer Awareness Day” at work. She asked me to speak about my experience and how having annual mammograms was vitally important. Subsequently, she went to her annual mammogram and was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer. What a shock for us all.

My boss connected me to perseverance. Her company was in its infancy and she worked even though it was difficult. I’ve rarely seen anyone as steadfast. Her passion has become her business and she owns a day service for special needs adults. She is planning this year’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Day” for tomorrow and, providentially, that’s my 3rd anniversary of being diagnosed.

The third woman who has made an impact on me is an acquaintance from Lenexa. She holds a full-time job and is councilwoman. This woman has taught me about love. Amidst the rigors of breast cancer treatment such as multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, this friend has found true love. She is single and decided breast cancer would not interfere with her search for a soul mate. Her vulnerability led her to a warm, charming boyfriend.

These friends, these pink threads that have helped me make my way through cancer, are invaluable. God’s Providence put them in my path and He has tied us together with the color PINK. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and mercy. Thank you for the PINK threads in my life.