When my mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer, 9/11 and the Iraq war hadn't happened yet. The series “Friends” was still running strong, and I still had braces. The worst tragedy I could imagine as a kid was my mom being sick combined with the idea that we as a family were powerless. The weight of the diagnosis was heavy for all of us. There were cancer-free programs and support groups to help with coping, but as one of the first in her circle of friends to be diagnosed, my mom felt like she was on her own.
My Mom's Success Story
After my mom's diagnosis, our family spent a lot of time together, trying to accommodate for a new way of life. Even then, I knew that there was nothing more important than family and my mom beating cancer. After several harrowing months of radiation and chemo hair loss, my mom's hair began to grow back as gray fuzz. Eventually, she was given a clean bill of health and the whole experience made her a little older, and much wiser. Once she regained her strength, my mother began to reach out to others through cancer support groups and fundraising.
Paying it Forward
Her cancer story doesn't just end with her accumulation of knowledge, but her ability to pass on the hope. Within a few years, the world began to change and even though I watched my mom get better, I watched other family friends struggle with similar diagnoses.
My mother was already a heroine in her own right, but she did something then that was extraordinary. One family friend named Amy was also diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer community is already a close, tight-knit and supportive group that makes sure everyone, like Amy, has the chance to find emotional support. However, my mom wanted to offer something more personal.
Hair Loss is Her Gain
Amy has always been a vibrant and refreshing human being. But, like my mom, she lost one of the things that made her feel like herself: her hair. As embarrassing as it was for Amy to endure chemo hair loss, my mom was fortunate (and unfortunate) enough to understand. Luckily, my mother came up with an idea. When Amy found herself in need of head covers, my mom gave her all of the scarves she wore during chemotherapy. It may seem like an odd gift to some, or too personal to others, but for Amy it was just right.
Amy didn't need to worry about going out anymore. For those several months where either one of them were hairless, the scarves became a surrogate headpiece that made them feel special in a positive way. While they previously felt weak in the face of adversity, those scarves made them feel like they were human again.
For all intents and purposes, Amy and my mom became those scarves: colorful, beautiful and vibrant with a punch of personality.
Even if it's just a bunch of scarves to some, I am convinced that my mom's scarves helped her boost her fight against cancer. And thanks to passing them on to a friend in need, Amy had more fight in her than ever before. Out of travesty came the people I knew these women to be: true fighters, true survivors.
How You Can Help
Although it's not the best of situations for cancer patients, even something seemingly trivial like scarves and other head coverings can make chemo hair loss a little easier and a little more “normal.”
Worldwide, over 12.7 million people are diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite these statistics, what is truly inspiring are the people and the stories that come out of the heartbreak and the devastation and then become beacons of hope. In the end, something as small as a scarf made my mom and her friends feel human again.
Scarves aren't the only thing us curly haired women can turn to during chemo. In fact, curly wigs are on the rise!
Seeing how my mom reached out made me realize the importance of giving back. If you know someone who has cancer and you feel as though a headscarf is too personal, or perhaps they already have plenty, you can show support in other ways. Never worry about the simplicity of the gifts. For those going through the breast cancer rehabilitation process, every little thought becomes hope, and every little bit of hope brings us one step closer to a cure, prevention and beating the disease once and for all!