I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being bald.
I knew it was coming, and I even had a few weeks to mentally prepare. But I’m still having a hard time accepting it.
I have a wig that my friends swear looks just like my natural hair. I’m sure that’s true for them, and I’m thankful for options that give women with cancer dignity and some semblance of normalcy. But no matter how natural it looks, it feels tight, hot, itchy, and well, fake.
My mom was in town, and we needed to run a couple of quick errands. So, I decided to suck it up and take my head covering for a test drive. It was the middle of the day in the middle of the week. This would allow me to ease in. Besides, this cancer journey is going to be a long process, so I might as well embrace my new reality.
And it didn’t take long for that reality to come crashing in on me. As fate would have it, I saw someone I knew as soon as we stepped inside the store. I instinctively waved to her because I forgot for one second that I was bald. Her facial expression said it all – part shock, part sympathy – before she darted her eyes away. A wave of hot shame washed over me.
The truth is, I’m ashamed of being bald. I’m ashamed of being sick.
For now, this is the cup from which I’ve been asked to drink. The best part of me wants to drink it down smooth, trusting there will be sweet at the bottom of this bitter. But I’m just not there yet.
I hid at home the rest of the day, licking my wounds, feeling sorry for myself. Poor Cancer Girl.
Mercifully, my pity party was cut short by my two-year-old grandson bounding through the front door. I wear my wig whenever I’m with him, so my baldness doesn’t scare him. But I didn’t have warning this time, so I just froze in my cap, took a deep breath, and pasted on a fake smile.
Beckham’s blue eyes shined against his sun-kissed face as he jumped into my arms. “Hi, Mimi! I missed you today.” I hugged him hard, waiting for the inevitable quizzical looks and rapid-fire questions that never came.
He didn’t even notice my hair, or lack thereof. He just saw me.
His daddy died tragically just a few weeks before my cancer diagnosis, so we’ve all experienced our share of shock and sadness lately. Sometimes even one day at a time seems like too much to bear.
But Beckham hasn’t stopped living, and he’s teaching all of us important life lessons in the midst of adversity and grief.
He hopped down, grabbed his favorite Mickey Mouse toy, and squeezed it tight, which makes it play “the hot dog" song. His face lit up when he heard the music, and he wiggled and writhed to the rhythm of his favorite tune. “Come on, guys. Let’s dance!” he squealed.
The last thing any of us wanted to do was dance—my 70-year-old mom with a polio leg that makes even walking painful; my daughter, exhausted from working and caring for a toddler; me taking chemotherapy.
But Beckham wasn’t having any of our excuses. As far as he was concerned, we were going to dance! And so, we did.
Four generations grabbed hands, gathered in a circle in the kitchen, and danced our hearts out.
He cheered for us and gave us all high fives each time the song ended as we did our best to emulate his energy and enthusiasm.
Thirty minutes later, we were all happy and worn out. But we were also changed. If Beckham can dance in the wake of his daddy’s death, I can dance with cancer in my body and no hair on my head.
Because the truth is that this moment on this day of this life – for however long it lasts and however twisted the path becomes—is the gift we get. And laughter and love are still ours for the taking even in the midst of anguish and uncertainty.
I still don’t think I’ll ever adapt to being bald, but I sure can get used to dancing in the kitchen.