Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hair Line

"How do you get a hair line like that at 50?"

Someone asked me that the other day. Or should I say a dude asked me that question. (Have you figured out he was losing his hair yet?). I get a lot of comments on my hair. I always have. It seems like people think it's their right to say something about my hair. Funny, I don't say anything to people about their hair. "Hey, how long you been a bald-headed bastard?", "you get a haircut after you finished that bowl of soup?", "what, they ran out of your regular hair color?", "do you think I don't notice that comb-over?", "how the hell you comb that thing on your head?", "can you stay out of the light, you're blinding me here!". Never once have I said any of those things to people. Never. (OK, maybe when I was piss drunk and bagging on my friends).

I was born with fire engine red hair, at least that's what my GrandMaree said. She said it looked like my hair was on fire it was so red. My hair was really red and curly when I was a kid. As I got older, it got darker. And people would ask me if I dyed it. Yeah, at 15-years-old, I'm gonna dye my hair. But I was asked that all time. Still am. And now that it's really long––pony tail long––I get even more comments. I even asked a former client one time about my hair. I said, "it's one thing not to like an ad. But if we don't know what you don't like about it, we'll keep making the same mistake over and over again. If I asked you if you liked my hair and you said no, I would ask you why." He said, "And I'd tell you, because it's messy." This from a man with a comb-over. Swear to God. I bit my tongue so hard I thought it was going to bleed. But hey, I asked him and he told me what he felt. Give him credit for that.

When I was going through radiation and chemo for head & neck cancer, my hair was falling out. It changed color, with a long white streak right down the middle. It looked like I hardly lost any hair at all. But I have a lot of hair. And I lost it in clumps. I just had so much, it wasn't noticeable to everyone. Maybe it was because it was so long. Maybe it was that I had such bad acne––not teenage acne, but that's what the Erbitux did to my face, make it break out like a teenager going through puberty––and no one noticed my hair falling out. Who knows? But I did. I also knew that I was trying to grow it as long as I could.

When I was going to radiation 5 days a week, for a full 7 weeks, I saw many others in the waiting room with varying stages of hair loss. It was a painful and visible reminder that this stuff was beating the crap out of our bodies. But the lasting image that got me the most was a little boy without any hair. He had to be about 7 or 8. He looked sad. He looked embarrassed. He looked me straight in the eye one day, looked at my long hair and looked back at me right in the eye. I knew what he was thinking. Why does he have hair and I don't? I felt for him. I felt he was probably getting picked on, just like I did when the kids on the playground called me carrot top, Woody Woodpecker or asked me if my hair was on fire. 

I knew then that I would grow more hair as long as I can. Cut it and donate it so someone could use it to cover their head. Kids, actually. Give my hair to those kids who have to suffer not only the pain and after effects of radiation, but the ignorance of their friends and other kids their age who tease them. Hey, kids don't know any better. But I know better. I know that the simple act of growing my hair long and getting it cut so other cancer victims can cover up their heads, is the least I can do. So the next time someone asks me about my hair, I'll give them the hair line. I'm a cancer survivor and growing it to donate it.

I'm sure I'll see some red on their head.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yes, Prayers Are Answered

Prayers are private conversations with our own God, or higher power. (As I told Juanita today, I'm not a religious person but I am a spiritual person. I was an altar boy for many years––but that's another post for another time).

I have been asking my higher power to keep cancer away from my Daughter. While I was waiting for my PET scan results, Kaity had a biopsy and was waiting for her results. I said, "give it to me. I can handle it." I felt it was my obligation––as a parent––to keep her away from the enormous pain of cancer. The mental pain is excruciating. The physical pain from treatments brings you to death's door. The combination kills way too many. I have survived two forms of cancer. I can and would survive more cancer. Just don't let Kaity have it.

I put aside everything so I could be there with her. I know she's old enough to go herself––she's 22, after all––but her Mom and I needed to be there when she got her results. Good or bad, we needed to be there for her. For us. For each other. Nothing in the world, not work, not the economic crisis, not a pack of foaming-at-the-mouth-wolves with knives could keep me away. (Wolves with knives? Where did that come from?) So off we went. And got there almost an hour before her appointment. Even DC traffic couldn't stop us.

After a couple of egg burritos and a short wait in the waiting area, her name was called. I moved across the room to sit next to Teresa, not saying a thing. Grabbing Teresa's hand. Telling her I love her. Telling myself this is all too familiar. Telling all the Gods to smile upon my Daughter. Watching the minutes move like hours. And wanting sooooo bad to be in the room with Kaity. That's what parents do. We worry. We wait. We want to take away any pain. As Teresa told Kaity when Kaity told her not to worry, "we worry when you have a fever."

When the door opened and she walked back into the waiting room, it seemed like time stood still. I tried to read her face. Look for tears. Look for clues. Look for inner strength. I really can't remember exactly what Kaity said, because I saw in her eyes that it wasn't cancer. She told us it wasn't––like I said, I don't what exactly and I call myself a writer?––cancer and my heart filled with hope again. Joy. Love. Pain from happiness. Someone or some thing did listen. Listened to me––probably because I wouldn't shut-up. (OK all you smart-asses who are thinking "he never shuts up").

I got my answer. Thank you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Be Strong

We are strong, us humans.

We are much stronger than we realize. I realized it this week when my Daughter, Kaity, came to watch the Lakers on TV with on Friday. It was a late game by east coast time––10:30PM––but there she was, full of life and happy to be here. The fact that she left home to move into her place has made the time we spend together that much more special. But it's more than the visits. It's her. She is full of life. Independent. Smart. Strong. And beautiful inside and out.

But this isn't about how perfect I think she is––it's about how she's handling her most recent challenge. Two weeks ago, she had a biopsy. As a parent, you never want to hear that. As someone who is a cancer survivor like me, it hurts me to the bone. It hurts in my heart. It hurts in my soul. As I was waiting for my results from my PET scan, I asked God to give me the bad news if there was any to be had. Give me the cancer, if one of us has to have to it. I can take it. I can handle it. Give it to ME.

My news was good––cancer free, now for a year––but I somehow couldn't stop thinking of Kaity. I still can't. I think about her all the time, my only little girl. I think about how proud of her I am. She teaches special education. She tutors. She coaches lacrosse at her former high school. She works on the weekends to make extra money. She keeps herself busy and always has. I wish I had her energy.

As I think about Kaity as I write this, I'm smiling. Wondering what she's doing at this very minute. Wondering if she's planning her Monday, planning her practices or just planning on making dinner. The week ahead will be a tough one for me, as I wait for her to tell me when she goes to the Doctor and get the results from her biopsy. I want to go with her. I want to be there for her. I want to be strong.

As strong as humanly possible.