February 11, 2010
I hate the way my hair looks after a long day at work. It wonít stay pulled back in a ponytail, but insists on flying on a wave of static and poking me in the eye. My hair makes no attempt to make a pleasant presentation in the mornings, either. In general, I think my hair lies awake nights trying to come up with new ways of making me look bad. Despite that, Iím not sure I could look any better without my hair, which is something my friend Cindy, 38, now faces.
On Feb. 3, Cindy went through her first round of chemotherapy to attack the lump she found in her breast less than three months ago. Cindy, helped by her daughter, Carrie, 12, picked out some wigs that Cindy will wear when she loses her hair, probably by the time she completes her second round of chemotherapy, she said.
Considering how busy Cindy is being a wife, raising her two children, working as a physical therapist, and keeping her home comfortable and clean, I donít know how much of her time went into reading all the reports about breast cancer and the changes suggested in its detection.
When she found the lump, Cindy told me her aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer three months previously, but Cindy hadnít felt the lump then. At that time I knew Cindy had been doing self-exams, and I was deeply grateful that she had been doing something to help her notice the smallest thing different, which turned out to be something very wrong.
Why would anyone who cares about womenís health suggest self-exams are unnecessary? Theyíre quick, easy, donít cost any money, and even if you donít ever find anything, thereís a certain peace of mind involved with knowing your body and knowing youíll also know if somethingís amiss.
During a time of economic turmoil that makes everyone weary, holding onto a job and oneís health insurance is vital, regardless of how tired you are or even if you donít feel well.
The fact that Cindy is somehow finding a smile for her face as she walks into work the day after her first four hours of chemotherapy inspires me to work more contentedly and worry less.
Cindyís biggest worry about work? That her wig will fall off.
My worries and my self-inflicted weariness need to be tucked away if for no other reason than as a tribute to my brave friend who is not only battling breast cancer, but is continuing to live her life to the fullest ó without complaint. I donít just think, but know, if I were in her shoes, I would be falling apart right about now.
But maybe thatís why some ties between people stay strong and binding regardless of time and space apart. Some ties are born and woven so tightly together in such a strong connection that though they lie lax for any length of time, you know in your heart that they are still there, because those ties are meant to be. My ties to Cindy have tightened again. Through her trials, she makes me want to be a better person, and I need that inspiration, that example of courage and perseverance.
Of course those ties donít seem to me to benefit Cindy much, especially now. From the first time she told me about the cancer, I wanted to do things for her, be there for her. I made a lot of offers, including joining her in her baldness. But nothing I offered seems to be what she needs right now.
Cindy taught me another lesson without saying any words or making any actions: What I might think is a great idea to help might not be. That doesnít mean I canít still be there, or offer my support. An e-mail or card might be just fine.
Iíve taken to asking myself, ďAm I willing to do anything she asks, even if it means she asks nothing?Ē My answer is yes. She may not ask now, but if she finds she wants to ask later, I want her to know she can ask me anything.