Location: Nashville, Tennessee
I had some down time after giving a talk in Nashville yesterday, so I decided it was time for a haircut. I knew I wanted to cut a few inches off, but ended up going with seven and a whole new summer do. And while my hair fell to the ground and my stylist did her thing (which included a scalp and neck massage!), I found myself reflecting on hair, and loss, and regrowth. It started with the stylist commenting on how silky soft my hair is, noting that it felt like baby’s hair. That makes sense, I told her, because it is pretty new hair. I was totally bald seven years ago. She couldn’t believe how much hair I had (especially considering that I have cut it several times since it first came back in) and we both marveled at how funny it was that it first showed up in Shirley Temple-like ringlets. She also asked me if I wanted to touch up any of the gray hairs she found and I declined, pointing out that I am rather proud of my gray hairs and am totally good with them popping up around my head. I do not mind them, or any of the other signs that I am aging, because I know how close I came to not aging. As my Dad says when asked how he is feeling, “It beats the alternative.”
And my hair also has me thinking about all the other ways my body bounced back from cancer. When I tell folks during my cancer talks about all of the surgeries I’ve had and all of the body parts that have been removed and all of the medicines that were injected into me, they are incredulous that I look as healthy as I do. You can see more signs of the trauma my body endured when I am not clothed, but even then, I am in awe of my body’s resilience. I initially felt betrayed by it and the way it allowed a tumor to grow within me, but I quickly switched to feeling overwhelming gratitude for the way I was able to bounce back from everything. I know so many others who weren’t as lucky, and it is something I do not take for granted.
Now don’t get me wrong. I will whine about a cold or my old knees just like anyone else would (just ask David) but I always try to remember that my aches and pains are temporary, and reflect on how lucky I am that I am not dealing with anything chronic or unrelenting. The perspective of knowing how close I came to dying also imbues other parts of my life. The big picture is a little easier to see when the whole frame was almost snatched away. I love my family, and my friends, and my life as a whole, and I feel so incredibly grateful to still be here enjoying it all. Of all the silver linings of my cancer journey (and there have been many), perhaps the greatest gift of all is the clarity with which I appreciate all the other gifts. So here’s to sassy new haircuts and Memorial Day weekends with friends and family and enjoying the heck out of our time on this earth.