Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Human Will

We were stopped at the quiet intersection and the traffic light turned green.  Although it was green, my aunt didn’t move the car as we observed what looked like a homeless man crossing the street in front of us.  He was dirty and trudging his feet along the pavement almost falling more than a couple of times in a drunken stupor.  He held a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag and had no idea we were even waiting for him to cross.  The four of us in the car were watching him and shaking our heads in both pity and disbelief.  The scene we observed was in stark contrast to the mission the four of us had just accomplished minutes before.

My aunt Iris, my cousin Ajia, my photographer extraordinaire friend Jade, and I had set out about an hour and a half before to take Ajia’s senior pictures for her high school graduation.  My cousin had brought along about a million outfits to change into and looked absolutely beautiful in every one.  Young people look good in everything, don’t they?  We went to the tennis courts for her varsity tennis shots.  We went downtown to capture some casual shots and headed to the Watergarden, one of the most beautiful spots in my hometown, to get shots of her with her glorious cello.  Ajia beamed from ear to ear and posed for Jade with such poise and confidence it was all I could do to keep from crying.  I was 13 when she was born and have watched her grow from a tenacious, adorable little girl into an intelligent, beautiful young lady on the cusp of her life’s dreams and possibilities.  My heart was bursting with pride.  My aunt and I fussed and fawned over her as Jade worked her camera magic into what are sure to be the best senior pictures that ever lived.  The last stop for pictures was at a spot we randomly picked.  Jade took her last shots of Ajia on a set of railroad tracks leading into the evening sunset.  My aunt and I waited in the car as the seagull-sized mosquitos were out for blood by then.  We watched my cousin on the railroad tracks and I thought to myself, ‘How fitting.  To think that railroad tracks lead out of town, lead somewhere else like a journey and Ajia is just about to go on hers.  How fitting.’

We finished up and started driving back home to my aunt’s house.  This is the point in my story when we came across the homeless man.  The stark contrast of one life with so much promise and another life thrown away was so obvious in that moment that we were awestruck.  Had a tragic set of events transpired in this man’s life for him to have fallen so far?  What had happened to his human will to live?  Why did he give up?

The human will is an anomaly.  An anomaly by definition is something that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify.  Just as my cousin’s will to succeed and discover herself is growing, this man’s will to live and prosper was dead.  ‘How can that be?,’ I thought.  Of course my thoughts led to my own situation compared to his.  How can I be fighting for my life and every minute I get to be alive and he just throws his away like its nothing, like its worthless?  I’ll admit that then my pity turned into indignant anger.  I did not choose to get cancer.  I did not choose this path my life has taken and yet it was given to me.  I wanted to get out of the car and run up to him and shake him.  Shake some sense into him but what good would that have done?  None I’m guessing.  I see now that not everyone places the same value on their own life.  I know the value of my life has gone up considerably in my own eyes over the past few months.

Not that I didn’t value my life before cancer but those were easier times.  I didn’t think too much about what impact my decisions had or what I put in my body, what I exposed it to.  Everything came easily to me and I had never really worked hard for anything in my life.  How can you value your life much that way?  My theory is that there comes a point in all of our lives where we are made to either care or give up.  But does it really have to come to that?  Why not make the decision early on to care and live your life like each day is your last? To live each day like you mean it, with definition.  I don’t know why I was dealt this hand but I’m doing the best I can.  I refuse to live an undefined life, no matter how long this life may last me.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  James 1:12

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And it starts. Again.

So I completely lost it tonight.  I wasn’t expecting it and I didn’t think it would happen.  Why should it?  Its not something I haven’t been through before.  I promised myself that I would not cry when I started to lose my hair again but the tears came anyway.

It happened at home after the most perfect night out with my husband and family.  We ate dinner out on the water in the most beautiful weather and walked downtown enjoying live music.  I held hands with my husband and laughed and laughed with my family.  Meanwhile, in the most windy city on this earth, my hair was literally blowing away off my head.  Nobody could see it but I knew it was happening and I managed to put it aside all night.  At home, I went into the bathroom to stand next to the trashcan and began to run my fingers through my hair.

It’s astounding how much hair I was throwing into the trashcan.  Clump after clump.  Little bald spots here and there taunting me about the inevitable.  “You’re gonna be baaa-aaald, na na na na naaaaaah!”  I’d gone into the bathroom with the plan of ‘helping’ my scalp shed any loose hairs in an effort to avoid hair all over my pillow in the morning.  Instead I emerged from the bathroom with what had to be the most sourpuss look on my face because my husband took one look at me and wrapped his arms around me.

As he first hugged me, I thought to myself, ‘What is he doing?  I’m perfectly fine.’  As he kept me in his embrace those feelings melted away and gave way to how I really felt.  My face got hot and I kept telling myself to grow up and not be such a baby.  ‘Its JUST hair!’  Over and over.  My eyes welled up and I fought the tears but they came anyway.  They came like a flash flood, both unexpected and unwanted.

But it didn’t stop there, oh no.  As the tears flowed, the sobs joined in.  I began to sob like I hadn’t done so since I was diagnosed almost a year ago.  It was almost a sob of mourning.  In fact, it was. While I’ve learned and gained much on this journey, there are also things I’ve lost that I can never get back.  I’m not only mourning my hair but I’m mourning what it represents.  My husband asked me what I was feeling as I sobbed and I told him I felt tired, I felt afraid, and I felt angry.

I am mentally, physically, and emotionally tired.  My brain feels fried, my body has been run ragged, and my heart has scar tissue from multiple heartbreaks.  Just as I’m losing my hair, I’m losing things I’ll never get back.  I’ll recover but I know I’ll never truly be the same emotionally.  I’ve permanently lost that innocence, that naiveté that comes with never having had to go through something like this.  Unaffected simplicity is gone.  I’m afraid of what I have to do next to live.  I used to think I was fearless and now fear is a constant struggle.  Chemotherapy, nupogen injections, stem cell transplant; its all so overwhelmingly frightening.  Most of all, I’m angry.  I told my husband it would have been better for my hair not to have grown back in between treatments. Its hard enough to see your hair fall out once, but TWICE?  Give me a flipping break!  This is so unfair.

Its difficult for some to understand why its such a big deal when a cancer fighter loses their hair. After all, its just hair right?  Wrong.  While my hair grew back and as I gained weight, I was told time and again how healthy I looked.  Some said they couldn’t tell anything was wrong with me. That’s just it.  I’ve been able to lead a fairly normal life over the past couple of months because I have hair again.  Nobody gawked.  Nobody noticed me.  I was just another person at the mall or on the street.  A bald head is a big red flag that says, ‘Hey everybody, I have cancer!”

I’m in mourning for that ‘normal’ that I’m so quickly losing my grasp on again.  AGAIN.  Hair loss is the first outwardly physical confirmation of ‘I have cancer.’  Losing my hair makes me think of that every time I look in the mirror.  Its a symbol of what I’ve gone through and of what is yet to come. And that is HARD.  That is one jagged, little pill.

My husband held me in his tight embrace, wiping my tears until they stopped and telling me he loved me, hair or no hair.  I think sometimes he knows me better than I know myself and yet he hasn’t run away screaming in the other direction.  In an act of solidarity, he shaved his head bald before mine has had a chance to fall out.  Tonight as I go to sleep waiting for my hair to leave me again, I know I am loved.  “Buh-bye hair!  Na na na na naaaah, he still loves me!”

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