I know I write a lot about cancer and how I’ve been affected by it. I know some people are probably tired of hearing about it. But it’s September again. And September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
I’m not going to pound you with all the statistics concerning the horrifyingly underfunded research. I’m not going to beg you to wear gold or use certain hashtags in your status. I’m not even going to post a single bald picture in this blog!
Instead I’m going to share with you an excerpt from the rough draft of the book I’m writing about my life. After you read it, I ask you to consider all of the children out there who have to experience and feel the same things I did. Then I ask you to consider what you can do to help. And if you’re interested in giving directly to a cause that helps fund pediatric cancer research click Here. That is all.
A few weeks earlier, I’d started taking pictures to document this part of my life. I knew that one day this would be over, and I didn’t want to forget what it was like. I wanted to remember, even though it didn’t make much sense.
I guess what started it all was when I lost my hair. At first my reflection was a stranger, but soon I forgot what I looked like with hair! And so it helped to look at the pictures I had from just a few months prior.
I had noticed the hair on my pillow going from a few strands to many. After the surgery to have my first (infected) port removed, I was unable to take a shower until the wound was fully healed. So I bathed carefully. I hadn’t washed my hair quite a while, so my mom offered to help me wash it in the kitchen sink.
The warm water on my head and the soft touch of my mother’s hands felt amazing. My scalp was so itchy and oily, having been neglected for so long. The sweet smell of shampoo filled my nostrils. I closed my eyes, enjoying my luxurious spa moment. But a few seconds later, I heard a sharp intake of breath and then a sad sigh.
“Oh, Amber…” Mom said in a voice barely louder than a whisper.
She held in her hands the bulk of what used to be my full curly ponytail. I lost most of my hair that day. The few stubborn ones that refused to let go, we shaved off.
It was past midnight. The rest of my family had long since fallen asleep, but I couldn’t. I tried, but the pillow felt strange against the bare skin on my head. So I got up and turned on my lamp, crossed my legs and took a seat in the floor in front of my closet. I stared into the mirror on my closet door for several minutes, turning my head from side to side, examining the newly exposed skin.
In my fourteen years on earth, I’d never seen my own scalp. From before I could remember, I had hair covering it. This was my first look, my introduction to the skin that had been with me all my life, but just now under terrible circumstances I was meeting.
In a morbid representation of a handshake, I lifted my hand and ran it from the front to the back of my head and then down my neck. Nice to meet you, head.
My hand lingered on the back of my neck and my eyes searched the rest of my face. My eyebrows had thinned substantially, but they seemed to be hanging on for the long haul. I had lost some lashes as well, but not all of them. The circles under my eyes were deep and dark. I was so tired but hadn’t slept well in quite some time.
Tears blurred my eyes and my image went out of focus. My blurry reflection looked alien, a pale bald head and dark eyes. I had completed my transformation, my integration into this new world.