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.

5 comments:

nuntius said...

Fuck, you are so real.
Reading the post i was feeling motivated to comment various stuff about how people are indifferent of others' situation, maybe because of their ignorance (or sometimes vulgarity) but you said everything in the last sentences. So i place my head down, humble...

deviousdiva said...

So glad to hear that Helen is out and about and enjoying life. It's heart-warming to read. My best to her.

Beerli said...

Been there done that with my Mum. You are bang on teh button. So right. Well said.

V-Grrrl said...

It is difficult at times to know how to react to someone's visible illness or disability. Sometimes I want to offer to help someone (i.e. let Helen cut in line) but don't do it because I know some people who are ill or disabled are offended by the stigma of "special treatment" and would not like my offer. And yet I hate not to offer...and so I debate and wonder and the opportunity to help might pass...

A ramble. But I am glad your friend is embracing life and you're standing with her...

FLUBBERWINKLE said...

You all have similar experiences and it's sad that cancer is as common as the flu in every part of the world and in all families.

I am aware that most people are trying not to step on any toes by giving cancer patients/ailing people a cut in line or other "priveleged services". I just think it's better to offer and be turned down, smile an apology if you offended them rather than pretend they are not there.