The Wig


I haven’t been out and about as much as I’d like lately. Taxotere is taking its toll, and fatigue is reaching further and further into my life. What was originally a few days of being tired is now a week or more, leaving a week or so of time when I’m feeling good before the next cycle begins. I’ll take the days I have with gratitude, believe me, but it leaves little time for socializing. Most of my “good” week is spent running errands, catching up on my advocacy work, and getting some good writing time in.

But this was a good week – and I got out more than usual. I had a CBCRP meeting in Oakland and the bar mitzvah of a family friend.

For occasions like these, I spend more time than I should thinking about my head. It’s nearly bald – shaved close but not off – and I’ve been spared total baldness in favor of “fuzz.” The irony is that I gave up my long, curly fuzz for the short fuzz of a buzz cut.

IMG_3676.JPGThere are practical matters to consider. Walking around bald doesn’t bother me, but it can be awfully cold! Scarves help, and it’s what I wear most days. But TSA can make me remove a scarf, and that’s a hassle. Plus there’s the shocked stares of pity by those around me, which I really can’t stand. So I decided to wear my wig to the conference. It got me through TSA in both directions, though it itches quite a bit and I worry about it moving around. To me it looks so obviously like a wig, but only a few in the know agree. I’ve had a number of compliments about my new ‘do, so I guess I’m fooling most of the people some of the time.

Fast forward to the bar mitzvah. It was the first time I’ve been in synagogue in a number of months, and while many friends know that I’m back in chemo, it’s not – of course – part of their daily awareness. The experience is very different – close friends do a triple take before they realize it’s me. I know my curls were my signature feature. I could have gone with a curly wig, and that might have made things easier. But I wanted something a bit different. Nothing drastic – I’m not the type to go green or blue, let alone pink, but something that could make an otherwise miserable experience fun was in order.

So I’m never quite sure how to approach someone. Do I start with an introduction, which seems awkward, but not as strange as the “who the hell are you?” look I sometimes get. Or do I let them go from confusion to concern to shock to recognition? I try to stay with John, to provide a context and make things easier…but even that doesn’t work. I’ll never forget the time, back in 2002, when a very dear friend was upset with John for bringing another woman to synagogue while his wife was sick at home – until she figured out that it was a wigged me.

It’s been an interesting social experiment, and one that I hope isn’t making others too uncomfortable. I’m no less sure what to do than I was 14 years ago, but I’m still here asking the questions!


A Rose By Any Other Name…

The language of cancer. Are you a survivor? A patient? A warrior? I marvel at how many words we have in our effort to quantify, qualify and translate the cancer experience. On some level I think that’s wonderful. A rich vocabulary stands to give us more opportunities to find that one descriptor that is just right. However, there are moments when I wonder if our choices fragment us. Does language become a barrier, rather than a bridge? I recently saw someone write “cancer victim” and I just know what my fellow bloggers and tweeters would think, and let’s just say it wouldn’t be supportive! But it makes me wonder: Has political correctness brought us to the point where there is no longer a way to engage in dialog without offending one another?

Slash. Poison. Burn.

 I don’t know anyone who thinks that we’re doing enough to eradicate cancer. I don’t know anyone who even thinks we’re going about it the right way. Billions of dollars in awareness campaigns, research funding, support services…and we often appear to be no closer to a cure, let alone  than we were 50 years ago. Have treatments improved? Yes. Do we better address the multitude of cancer side-effects? Sure. But a cure?

Pro Choice & Pro Life

Cancer coach and blogger Elyn Jacobs comments, “Yesterday I spoke with a woman with stage 1, wanted to treat her cancer naturally, opted out of surgery.” She goes on to talk about the challenge of finding a doctor who could HEAR and respond to the needs of the patient, rather than play their own scripts about treatment expectations.

Elyn’s comment reminded me of a the day when I had a new support group member. This lovely, older woman was the only “newbie” that afternoon, amongst a group of in-treatment and post-treatment women. When it was her turn to share, the woman told us that she had a lump. It had been there for about four years. Moreover, she had lost a mother and sister to breast cancer.

To say the other women in the group went on the attack would be an understatement. They were beside themselves, with responses that ranged from “How could you?” to “I’ll go with you….” It was all I could to fend them off. As facilitator, it was my job to honor this woman’s choice, even if her choice was not life.


Oh So Sexy…

From a generation or two ago, when the word “breast” was only whispered to today’s “Save the Tatas” t-shirts and “I ♥ Boobies” bracelets, there has been a significant shift in how American society sees and responds to breast cancer. Overwhelmingly I think the advances are great, and I would be the last person to advocate for a return to the shame and secrecy with which this disease was once treated. At the same time, I wonder if the pendulum hasn’t swung in the opposite direction; how it is that breast cancer and sex appeal have become linked? Consistent with my concern about breast cancer as a marketing tool, I wonder when breast cancer became sexy. More


A fellow blogger at The Day I Found Out got me thinking recently. Their site (very moving, btw…check it out!) focuses on first person videos of survivors and loved ones telling the stories of their diagnoses; stories that are sad, sweet, and uplifting all at once. My browsing there led me to think about my own D-Day.

The truth is, the actual day of my diagnosis is part of a bigger picture, which includes the days I didn’t find out. The road to diagnosis was a long one, much longer that it needed to be. It began with my first “baseline” mammogram ordered by my internist in November 2001. I don’t know what made her order the test, and I’m not sure she does either. Instinct? Prophecy? It’s not in my nature to wonder why, but rather to be grateful that she did! More

The Pinking of America

I’ve surprised many a friend with my anti-Breast Cancer Month sentiments. I simply recoil against what I think of as The Pinking of America. First it was the grocery stores with shelves lined with pink cans of Campbell’s soup and displays of pink M&Ms. Next clothing stores awash in pink bras and rhinestone ribbons, followed by pink-ribbon nail polish at the beauty supply outlets. This year saw pink on the NFL football fields of America. More

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