Oct 13, 2008

Bald is life

Last night my friend Helen and I were out on the town. She now sports a light fuzz of gray hair which will soon fall out again because she's doing chemotherapies once more.

As we stood in the line outside the theater, people pretended not to stare at her obvious cancer-stricken hair loss and the large white mass of gauze tape strapped across her jugular vein which holds the needle that shoots chemos in her jaded body.

We've been out before and I've witnessed the eyes of strangers darting back and forth her wonderful round, hairless head. She defiantly refuses to wear any bandannas or head ware. It is her way of telling people we shouldn't be afraid of cancer, afraid of the consequences of chemotherapy, afraid to say the word cancer aloud.

Last night was one of the nippiest autumn nights in Athens and we were in a rather long theater queue. I kept asking her if she was OK, worried she might catch a cold that could cause complications. I looked desperately around me for someone to gesture Helen to cut in line and head for the warm lobby as quickly as possible. No one did.

People couldn't mistake her health situation. However, it occurred to me that a cancer victim at a theater line was something people tried to ignore, because they were out for a good time. And the word cancer and good time rarely go together. I felt my insides burning with shame at how Helen and all cancer patients have to endure these stares.

I turned and saw Helen smiling that great big child-like smile of hers. She was excited to be there. And I realized that nothing else but her being there, being happy, being alive was what mattered.

Let them stare at my courageous friend, Helen. Bald means life.