One of my coworkers burst into the break room at lunch today and upon seeing me eating my lunch, exclaimed:
“What made you do it?!”
She was referring to my haircut. Her tone implied that I had gone off the deep-end, had some sort of existential crisis, left my husband, or had an unfortunate accident with a very large wad of chewing gum that resulted in my extreme hair cut.
It was none of these things.
A bit of background: I generally keep my hair well below my shoulders for one specific reason: to donate.
As a cancer survivor, it would be what I would have wanted if I had lost my hair due to treatment. Especially if I was younger. Actually, I’m not sure what I would have done if I had lost my hair to treatment in high school. My hair was long enough to sit on then, and I would have wanted some of my own hair made into a wig, I think, but I can’t be sure. I may have braved it bald…. But probably not.
So today when my coworker approached the question with the tone she used, I became a bit defensive, and my response probably took a tone that I didn’t want it to, but….
She made it sound as though the 10 inches I cut off my hair was an ill-advised emotional choice instead of the very calculated and planned 2 years of preparation to grow.
This is a nod of solidarity to those who weren’t as lucky as I was during my treatment. It’s a gift of normalcy in a time when your life is in chaos, people treat you differently, your life is different and all you want is to be treated the same as everyone else.
A big thing that I think a lot of people don’t realize about cancer is that even though you’re sick, you still want to be treated the same (within the available physical possibilities) because the “Cancer Perks” just make you feel… coddled.
I remember having this fight with my dad at the dinner table. I was 17, freshly diagnosed, and I don’t even know what we were arguing about. But he said this:
“But you’re sick!”
And I yelled back, “I am, but it hasn’t changed who I am!”
Which is probably exactly what any 17 year old would say, considering 17 year olds…..
But I also remember they would let me disappear.
I’d drive an hour or two away to visit my friends without asking, or sit alone on the beach for hours without telling them where I was. That was the biggest Cancer Perk my parents gave me - a very long leash with which to cope with my disease.
Which, was nice, but at the same time, was special treatment I didn’t necessarily want just because I was sick, but because they trusted me.
This has gone a bit off the rail, and I’m on a tangent, but normal is important when you deal with illness.
I’ve seen those FB posts about how a cancer patient only wants one thing: to beat cancer. And sure, that’s absolutely true, but I feel that more than that, I didn’t want to become my disease to everyone, and I just wanted to be treated normally.
So, this is my small gift of normal to other Cancer Kids….