Friday, June 17, 2016


A few months back, I wrote a cranky blog (not posted) about our culture's obsession with hair and how it grated on me, being hairless. Also bald. Like an opossum without the tail. My crankiness extended to one of my favorite trash past-times, going on Pinterest after dinner. I admit to following Kate Middleton religiously, instead of, say, reading Karl Barth; there's something about her genuine happiness, stunning beauty, and stylish outfits that I found very cheering.

But alongside the cheery images were photos of women's hair--special oils to rub in to increase production; nifty little "do's" with complicated knots behind; and robust auburn ponytails cascading down someone's back. I found all of it rather depressing and had a tendency to take it personally.

However. Now that my chemo is finished (thank you, God), I have a small, subtle haze of hair growing on my head, rather like a new lawn just daring to show above the soil. I zip into our bathrooms at odd intervals so I can peer at myself in the mirror and make sure the fuzz hasn't disappeared when I wasn't looking. I have also taken to smoothing down the "hair" the way I stroke a cat or a short-haired dog with its summer cut.  Even my husband comes in for this as I ask him to pat my head. "Silky, definitely silky," he pronounced this morning. I like that. I aspire to silky.

I extend heart-felt sympathy to anyone going through chemo who has lost their hair; it looms large for women in particular. But it is so enlivening to be on the other side of treatment and to marvel at the rejuvenation at work on my head. I might have to sing a phrase from the "Hallelujah Chorus" to encourage those follicles, in case they are contemplating a summer's nap or taking up meditation instead of growing

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


    As we face a prediction of severe thunderstorms, it just struck me how similar cancer is to bad weather. Think about it:
--both are unpredictable;
--damaging storms can whip through suddenly (read test results);
--you are not in control in either case;
--sometimes all you can do is hide;
--you will need a survival kit with food, water, blankets and a book to get through;
--it is good to have someone you love with you in the storm cellar;
--you might come out of this intact, or you may not; the future is unclear;
--a strong faith helps you survive.
    I read the weather news obsessively. My fav dude is Dave Hayes the Weather Nut, who forecasts our Mass. Weather in fine detail. He includes warnings about when to leave for Logan airport on a stormy winter day ("Dave, when should I leave?"), and advice on whether a cook-out with relatives or a wedding might have to move inside.
    Like those who read the weather forecasts, when I go for a medical procedure I always leave with a fistful of instructions:  No heavy lifting for days (after port removed); no showers for 3 days; no swimming for 7; and when appropriate, take nausea pills before it gets bad. Now I am a good patient in that I follow instructions faithfully whether in health or bad weather.
    I also pray that storms will go out to sea; that the roiling nausea shall not overcome me; that the rain will let up so farmers can plant; and that the port will stop hurting before my oxycodone runs out.
    Does God listen? I believe he does, just not always in the way we wish. I often thought that I might need to learn something crucial through my ordeal. Perhaps a session in the tornado (medical) cellar will remind me of patience or the need to depend on something greater than myself. An unpleasant hospital procedure can remind me of the deep goodness and compassion to be found in health-care workers. A session in the operating theater introduces me to Rachel, a nurse who talks me through the whole procedure, chatting with me about food, cooking, music, films, cancer, and kids. I suspect angels often wear puffy blue hats and talk about Beyonce to distract their patients.
   So, I am down with the comparison between unpredictable weather and cancer. At the end, we come out of it with some of our rough edges sanded down, our patience increased, and--as Paul famously wrote in his Letter to the Romans:
    "...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and cha

racter, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."  (Romans 5: 3-5, NIV)