Passing

November 15, 2009 at 8:06 PM (Hair) (, , , , , , , )

Aside from the insulative value that having your own hair adds to a winter’s day, it’s an amazing mental hurdle to feeling normal. Last spring, when I was going through chemo, the stuff I was on didn’t make all of my hair fall out; in fact, I only lost about half of my volume (which I can assure you is enough hair for any three other people). To the average observer, all systems were nominal.

This summer, when my hair started falling out in earnest (thanks, Taxol!), I was expecting it. I was even, in a small part of me, looking forward to it – quick showers, no salon appointments, no shaving, cooler summer days. And yet as blase as I can be about some of the stuff that happens with this battle, there’s something so unnerving about being bald. Oh, I know I have a cute head, that my wig is fabulous and I don’t even mind going around in a bandanna. But all of a sudden, the world looks at you differently. You’re a cancer patient, and everyone can tell.

Why does that bother me? I should be proud to represent, a survivor who’s still plugging along through the soccer mom’s routine: walking the dog, going to Target, meeting the school bus. Does it make me uncomfortable to get special dispensation — no, please, go ahead of me in line, I insist — or to accept help to the car with my groceries? Lord knows, there are days I can use it. Is that why I want my wig to look so natural? (Or am I just really vain?)

Do I worry about making other people uncomfortable? I’m more than happy to talk about my illness, diagnosis, symptoms, not only because I hope I can help someone else who may also be sick but because, really, who doesn’t like talking about themselves. Once people know you’re sick, though, they make sure to always ask you how you are, if there’s anything they can do for you, and I think I’m very conscious of that switch — I’m not just your average girl any more. I want people to want to know how I am not because they know I’m sick and are being solicitous of the poor cancer lady, but because that’s what you ask your friends. (And yes, I know that’s ridiculous; I know who my friends are and that they love me. This is not an entirely rational process, kids.)

It’s been so hard to teach myself to accept help from those who offer it, not just because I need the help but because it gives those who offer it a way to have some control over an uncontrollable situation. Offering help is a way to make it better, even if it’s only a casserole. So maybe passing for “normal” is another way I need to let go, be the best baldy I can be. Or maybe I’ll keep fighting to look “normal” because looking good, for me, has so much to do with feeling good.

Anyway, thanks for the casseroles.

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