The year is 2018. We Americans live in a country divided, our news feeds filled with stories of people judging others based on external factors and taking action against them for it. As I endured the chemotherapy treatments that in January took the hair from my head, and much later my eyebrows and lashes, I wondered how this country would treat me as I made my way in the world. I noticed that people can’t help but stare, and some don’t choose to make eye contact. Little kids are fascinated by bald women. But overall, the energy I’ve encountered has been its own form of healing.
Cancer is equal opportunity, non-denominational, without political party. It’s the great equalizer. What I’ve felt the last few months is a generalized kindness I haven’t felt in a long time—maybe since I was a young child. Looking at this bald, middle-aged white woman, people see someone who is probably dealing with something. Not wanting to add to my burden, they extend to me a silent courtesy that crosses many boundaries; they offer me their place in line, quietly discount my service, throw in the guacamole for free. Knowing that this experience will be fleeting, I embrace this energy and allow myself to receive. In the karmic flow of life, I have given much kindness and courtesy and positive energy. In my time of need, I allow this energy to flow back towards me; I float through my daily errands, my spirits buoyed, my love of humanity replenished, peaceful with the knowledge that even in the throes of cancer treatment I am still #winning.
I have no urge to refuse such charitable actions. As humans, everyone we know has been touched by cancer in some way. This person looking to ease my journey may see in me their grandmother, sister, best friend. Who am I to prevent them from doing for me what they may not have been able to do for a loved one who lost their battle? I express my gratitude for their kindness, and I carry forth that kindness into my next encounter. We are all elevated by these acts of generosity and the feelings of goodwill they trigger.
Although none of us are guaranteed another day on Earth, the fragility of my time here is a bit more front and center. People listen when I speak, recognizing that I have faced death more intimately and recently than perhaps they have. I have walked through fire and gained the perspective that such a journey grants. There is wisdom in those flames, if we choose to seek it.
I treat these weeks of my life with a certain reverence; like those 9 months when life grew inside of me, this time will soon be over. As my eyebrows fill in and my pale scalp darkens with 3 ½ weeks of stubble, I can feel the energy of the world out there shifting. I’m starting to look like someone who chose to shave my head as a form of self-expression, rather than someone who chose to shave it rather than feel it fall out as I moved through my day, self-conscious that my shoulders were filled with platinum blonde hairs. But until then, I will wear my bald head with pride, knowing that it represents those who have gone before and those whose turn has yet to come; those who walked bravely out in the world with their bald head covered or exposed; those who have survived and those who have not. We are all warriors.