Have you ever just known (“Is that you, God?”) that you were supposed to do something specific for someone—make a telephone call to check on her, speak to someone that you don’t know as you pass her in the store, mail a card, help a mom with little ones carry groceries to her car, or just give someone an eye-to-eye smile—yet, for whatever reason, you didn’t do it? Has it ever crossed your mind what that little “something” might have meant to that person? (See previous blog, A Most Unusual Funeral) Believe it or not, we are often meant to be “players” in other people’s lives even if we don’t know them. I was truly blessed by my family and friends during the year that I had cancer, and I’ll talk about them later. But for the next couple of blogs, I want to introduce you to some other people who truly “made my day” the year I had cancer.
I am very accustomed to wearing makeup; it’s a daily habit. I consider it a public service to my fellow Shreveporters—you know, “paint the barn,” “cover the ugly,” etc. I get up and before I start every day, I go through the same routine to decorate my face; it just makes me feel better. Besides, when you’re a woman and you’ve got a bald head, you need all the help you can get!
The American Cancer Society has a program for women who are in treatment of cancer. It’s called Look Good—Feel Better. One of the things that they do during this session is to give the women beauty products and teach them how to use them so that they leave the class feeling as if they have had something of a makeover. I had attended one of those classes on a Monday. On Wednesday, my husband suggested that since I was having some “good days,” perhaps we could get out of town overnight in order to be back for chemo early Friday morning. We hadn’t done that in ages, so we threw some things together, got in the car, and headed to Longview, TX. No big plan—eat out, maybe do a little shopping; mainly, we would just have a different set of four walls to look at.
By the time we were on our way, it was lunch time, so we stopped at a fried fish restaurant (a staple in TX and LA) on the way. We had a very perky, sociable young woman who took our orders, but before she ever took care of our food, she looked at me and said, You have beautiful skin—just like porcelain! Absolutely beautiful! I don’t know if it was noticeable or not, but I’m sure I sat and stood a little taller after that. That woman did not know me; she could have simply done her job of taking our order and walked away, but she followed that instinct, and I’m so grateful she did because she really made my day!
When you’re having cancer treatments and go to the cancer center with any regularity, you eventually get accustomed to seeing people around you wearing wigs, hats, scarves and, occasionally, nothing at all on their heads. But I must admit that it takes a little getting used to; that happened to me very early on.
I had had probably just one chemo treatment which wasn’t enough for me to start losing my hair, but the thought of that loss was never far from my mind. As I walked in the front door of the Cancer Center, there was a group of perhaps 10-12 people, entering and exiting. But one woman in particular stood out to me; she had to have been 6’2” tall at least, maybe more. She was, literally, head and shoulders above everyone else in the group, and she carried herself like a beauty queen. She would have stood out in a crowd no matter what the situation because she was a tall, big-boned woman. Not overweight, not even plump, not even what our daughters (as children) would have called “fluffy”—just a large woman—very attractive, and she had a beautiful smile that she shared freely with those around her.
She was what I would have called stunning. She seemed calm, peaceful, and in love with life. But to me, the most striking thing about her was her totally bald head—no scarf, no wig, no hat, no cap—just that beautiful, bald head. I was so amazed at her demeanor and the way she carried herself that I immediately felt a peace come over me that I had not experienced since the whole cancer thing had begun. Not only had this woman made my day, but, without knowing it, she had had an effect on me that lasted the entire span of my treatments.
B.C. (Before cancer), I was a little introverted, not always feeling comfortable speaking to or making eye contact with people I didn’t know. Cancer taught me a lot of things, and one of those things is that deep-down, we’re all alike—whether we want to admit it or not. We all want to be loved and accepted, and, at one time or another, we all go through things when we need a little extra attention even if it’s from a total stranger. Since people are so good at wearing that “everything’s-okay-with-me” façade, I have no way of knowing who is experiencing one of those times when she needs some extra attention, so I’ve started trying to connect with everyone I see. I came to realize that I may be the only smile someone will receive that day, and I would hate for her to miss it. Those little things cost nothing, not even a lot of time, but they are invaluable to the recipient.