Thanks for all the sweet and encouraging words about my bald head. On the first day of our diagnosis, February 9th, when Dr. Kuhn said “I regret to tell you that it’s cancer.” My first response was, “so does this mean I’ll lose my hair?” So much for worrying about my life or my little guy. Looking back, that question is silly. And, I really don’t think it was intended to be as vain as it clearly sounds. I think what I was expressing was my very limited knowledge about what it means to have cancer – all I knew was that you lose your hair. I now know a tad bit more. But that fundamental truth remains. And I’ve now joined the ranks of the countless men and women who have gone before me with bald heads. Though, with much greater knowledge and perspective now, it feels like a much smaller price to pay than I once thought. And Scott and I are so thankful for doctors and medicine that can sustain my life (Lord willing) even if they can’t sustain my hair.
In response to the pictures here and on Facebook, y’all are pretty free-flowing with words like ‘beautiful’ and Scott and I appreciate the kindness – but we’ve decided, more than anything, ‘beautiful’ is really a nice way of saying “that wasn’t as scary as we feared” … and I couldn’t agree more! If y’all think this is beautiful (and I’m trusting you’re not just flat-out-lying) then that’s a gift from the Lord to give you vision beyond the natural because it still kind of shocks me in the mirror. But, I’m also thankful that the shock isn’t horror and just a reminder of our reality. And, seriously, how stinkin’ cool is it that God has it rigged that we can’t see ourselves?! We have to seek out a reflection and/or mirror to actually look at ourselves. And I don’t think that’s a design flaw. I think it’s genius. I regularly and often forget that I don’t have any hair. I’m reminded quickly once I catch my reflection but, unlike those around me, I’m not constantly reminded by what I see – because I can’t see it! Genius. Good one, God. Real good. I love that He knows how vain we can be so he rigs it so that we can’t constantly be evaluating (positively or negatively) our physical appearance.
But, while I may forget, baldness is now like a flashing sign on my head that announces to the world that I have cancer. And, yet again, even that hasn’t been so bad. In fact, it’s got a little sweetness to it.
For one, as Scott and I have noticed, people are exceedingly accommodating and friendly – waves, opened doors, courtesy, smiles, and kindness. We have been laughing about the ‘cancer card’ and often whisper it under our breath when we experience one of the many interactions that are noticeably different. It’s like I’m flashing a cancer card that functions a bit like a VIP card for anywhere and anytime. Especially if you happen to be bald and jogging and pushing a baby in a jogger and trying to cross the street. It’s golden.
That jog concluded at Starbucks and, with my bald head, I went in for our drinks. As I waited, the girl that works there, whom I know, responded so beautifully and honestly and graciously. She said, “May I ask the obvious question …?” It was SO endearing. And I told her so. It was nice for her to acknowledge the obvious but ask in such a gracious way. Honestly, in that case, when I’ve seen Lauren regularly for a couple of years, it would be more awkward for her not to ask. And there’s a lesson in there somewhere too but I haven’t yet unpacked it. It was just nice for her to be real and honest in the moment.
Over the weekend, apart from jogging (which seemed silly with a scarf or a wig so I just went bald to try to get a little color on my head so it’s not a vastly different color than my face!), I was wearing my wig and, if I say so myself, it’s fabulous. I’m not bragging because it’s not my hair. But whoevers hair this was, it is much better than mine. And it isn’t subject to humidity. Or grease. Every day you can just put Pinky back on and go. Check her out …
Pretty believable huh?! As I look at this picture now, I notice for the first time that my part might be a little off. But I guess that’s what happens when your hair isn’t actually attached. I don’t think anyone at the Arboretum would have thought it was a wig. And I was happy to just have a real fun and normal day with the family:) I admit it’s taking some getting used to. At dinner on Friday night, Scott and I saw some friends and in the middle of talking to them, I reached up and just plopped my hand on top of my head as if it might be missing or off or sliding back. As soon as they left, Scott and I had a good laugh. Cathy and Kirk, if you saw that random and awkward hand-to-top-of-head-move, it was because I was momentarily panicking that my wig was out of place! But, for the most part, every time I’ve checked, it’s still on my head – albeit maybe the part is a little off in this picture, who’s to say where your part is supposed to go when it’s not attached to your head?!
Over the weekend, I was with family both days and at church among folks I know so, as it turns out, the real ‘public debut’ of the flashing neon I’ve-got-cancer-sign was today when I was out alone and more easily approachable. My friend, Amy, offered to keep Linc while I ran some errands and since I was still in my running clothes and it seemed silly to put my wig on top of a sweaty head, I put on a bandana. My first stop was Goodwill and I could tell my friend there, Javon, was extra friendly but he didn’t say anything. Next stop was for a bagel. I ordered and went to get my drink. Someone came up behind me and I turned around to hear, “may I give you a hug?!” as one of the employees was launching into a full-frontal-endearing-bear-hug. And not letting go. I said, smiling as we hugged, “is this for me or for you?” because, honestly, I didn’t think my demeanor was screaming “please give me a hug” but I sure was getting a sweet one. She responded with “maybe both?” and I said, “I like that.” She pulled back with tears in her eyes and said, “I lost my mom 5 years ago. And you remind me of her.” For now, let’s skip over the part about her being African-American. So I’m not sure exactly what about me reminded me of her mom (who I’m also guessing would have been much my senior) but, honestly, I’m thankful it did. I asked if Mother’s Day was hard and she kept crying. She told me she was adopted (maybe her adopted mom was white?) and how much she loved her mom. I told her how much I loved adoption. And how much I loved her hug. When she gave me my bagel, I couldn’t resist asking if I could pray for her tender heart. I prayed that Mona knows the love of God as sweetly as she knew the love of her Mama.
Why does baldness beget such kindness?! As I sat in my car at Einstein’s, I thought about how powerful kindness is and how weakness welcomes it. The truth is that I’ve lived a lot of my life in strength (real or portrayed) and there’s nothing about strength or self-sufficiency that beckons strangers to give you sweet hugs – or practically beg you to cross in front of their car while jogging. But, in sharp contrast, weakness begets kindness and, in that kindness, the weak one is strengthened. I was reminded of the truths of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” I haven’t really intended to boast in my weakness but cancer doesn’t really give you much choice. Intended or not, it is advertised to the world by a bald head. Or a bandana’d head. And, all of a sudden, I’m quite liking it. I’m liking what it’s teaching me about living without the props of hair or health, beauty or braun, strength or self-sufficiency. I was hesitant, before, that the bald head that would make me the center of attention or self focused. But, so far, the Lord has allowed me to often forget about it (by his genius design that others can see it but I can’t!) and used it as an opportunity for me to experience the strength and love of others more fully.
So, again, I repeat what I’ve said in other entries … The blessings still outweigh the burdens. There are definitely roses on our thorns. And, though I know this road could get harder with more drugs and surgery ahead, for now, I marvel at His kindness. And the kindness of my dear friends. And the kindness of my family. And the kindness of strangers. And the kindness of meals. And the kindness of encouraging words. And the kindness of babysitting. And the kindness of laundry. And the kindness of thoughtful gifts. And, most of all, for the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.
With a full heart and a bald head, I thank you for your kindness to read this blog, pray for our family, and walk with us.