It’s 43 degrees outside with a big chance of a snowstorm tomorrow, so when I went out to get my last pre-chemo blood work done, I slipped on the floppy gray hat I’ve been wearing for five months.Tomorrow will be my last day of chemotherapy – infusion #16. That’s 16 times I’ve sat in a chair or hospital bed and willingly let the kind nurses push cell destroying drugs into my body. Usually, I wear my hat during the infusions as well, but it’s not because I’m ashamed to be bald. In many ways, losing my hair and donning a shiny scalp has come to represent my battle – my temporary and most noticeable battle scar.
Yes, people stare, but it’s mostly because of those other people that I wear a hat.
I am completely comfortable, now at least, with being bald, but I don’t want to make others feel bad. While at church, our little family sits in a row of chairs – my son in my arms and supportive husband by my side. I want to tell the people around me that I’m wearing a hat so that they won’t feel bad – so that they won’t look at me with pity and like I’m dying – because I’m not.
I’m not dying. I’m not pitiful. I am thriving. I am stronger than I ever knew I could or would have to be.
I am too grateful to be alive with my son and family to feel upset about an outward appearance. My hair will grow back. It’s already started to stretch slowly outward. As I get closer to going back into my classroom, I’ll have to make decisions on how often to wear a hat. I may teach bald. Not for sympathy but to teach my students something greater than information in a textbook – Life is so much greater that we thought, so much more precious, and so much more to fight for than we ever imagined or could. The absence of my hair, if only temporary, does not represent a void but the thick presence of a strength that was required of me.