The Bold, the Bald, and the Beautiful

While filling my gas tank yesterday, I got my love tank filled too, a two for one special.  A young handsome boldly gay man came up to me and told me I was beautiful.  I was in a hurry to pick up carpool so he caught me by surprise. “Thank you.” I said, blushing a bit, as I ran my fingers across my bald head answering, “I have breast cancer.”  His face softened, we chatted a bit and before I could race off to carpool he asked, “Can I give you a hug?”  “Absolutely, I agreed. 

The interesting thing about this encounter, it has become a daily occurrence in my life since I shaved my head and started chemo.  Absolute complete strangers come up to me out of the blue to share a personal story, compliment me or simply say “Hi”.  I feel a bit like a Hollywood star without the paparazzi.  I can’t walk into a room, a restaurant, or a grocery store without people staring.  Many avert their eyes quickly looking away, but just as many say “Hi”, and a few want to make conversation.  Just this week alone, I had a chat with a fireman at Starbucks, a checkout woman at Albertsons, and Casey’s friend’s famous drummer dad who sang out, “Rock’n hairdo!” as he rocked out on Casey’s drum kit. 

When picking Casey up from school the other day, a very big black bald security guard came up to me and blurted out, “Damn girl, I thought I was hot, you are smok’n.”  A man at “The Neighborhood Cup”, a local coffee house told me I should be carrying a guitar with that hairdo, little did he know.  And a woman my mother’s age at the beach cautioned me, “I sure hope you have sunscreen on.”  Some women can’t help themselves, they will always be moms.

Seems I have caused quite a stir around town, as if I am an enigma.  The thing is I am not an enigma.  One in eight women in the OC has breast cancer.  Where are they?  Where are all the bald heads?

I found the answer to my question a couple of days ago at the Newport Hair Loss Center.  Nazy, the owner, told me that most women will not leave the back room designed specifically for bald clients without their wigs on.  Apparently, I am her only client that walks into her salon with my wig in my hands instead of on my head.  I guess that is why she asked me to be a model for a video she plans to put on her website. 

I understand that losing your hair can be very traumatic.  It is not easy.  I do not mean to be insensitive but honestly, are women that vain, that insecure?

Maybe I would feel differently if I had a head shaped like a melon or looked like the tin man but I highly doubt it.

I have breast cancer.  It’s a fact of life.  I am not embarrassed in the least.  In fact, in some strange way, wearing a wig makes me feel a bit embarrassed, like I’m hiding.  Bearing my bald head makes me feel free, strong, brave and daring like I own it.  It is very empowering. 

I know I make many feel uncomfortable.  I can see them avert their eyes from me.  Some were taught not to stare, others are at a loss of words or just don’t know what to do.  Their own insecurities take over, except for the kids.  They are still free from this conditioning.  It is so refreshing to have a young child stare at me.  They usually smile and some even feel free to ask me why I don’t have any hair, until their parent grabs them by their arm and reprimands them, “Don’t stare, it’s not polite.”  Yes, this has actually happened.

Honestly, I love taking people out of their comfort zone, upsetting their status quo.  Cancer is real.  It is not going away anytime soon.  Quite the contrary, with our current lifestyle and a cure still years away, the one out of eight ratio will only rise.  Now that is upsetting.  If bearing my bald head reminds people of this reality, than I will continue to keep my wig on its stand on my dresser in my bedroom, maybe I will even continue to shave my head after chemo.  Hmmmm, now that’s an idea!

If I didn’t want attention, I could wear my wig.  I admit I am a bit of an attention whore.  Bearing my bald head opens doors for me.  It gives me a chance to talk to complete strangers.  I love talking to strangers.  It makes them not so strange any more.  Well, most of them.  I do not love chemo, however.  I don’t feel like writing down all my current side effects right now (that is another blog).  It depresses me.  But, having a complete stranger come up to me and tell me I am beautiful, they will pray for me and remind me to put sunscreen on makes this whole process a little easier to swallow.  Marry Poppins was right when she sang, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” 

Not everyone has cancer, but remember everyone you meet has a really big problem.  Be someone’s sugar today and say “Hi”, throw out a compliment or simply smile.  It makes our big scary world full of strangers feel just a little smaller and an individual just a bit taller.  And it just might make your own problems seem less important.  There is an ancient Persian saying,

I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet. 

17 Responses to “The Bold, the Bald, and the Beautiful”

  1. Tina Says:

    Love this reminder of what’s important. And I love your positive spirit. Very inspiring!

  2. Lauren Says:

    Love this & love you!!

  3. Kimberly Wilcox Says:

    You are truley inspiring. The world needs more women like you.

  4. Mom Says:

    You are bold, bald and beautiful. And I love you because of it.

  5. RosaMaria Cordova Says:

    I love your post! You are an amazing lady.

  6. Anita Kocourek Says:

    How cool! You do look great without hair. I love the last paragraph of your post, to be someone’s sugar today. It’s true that everybody has a big problem. Pass around the love…

  7. Linda Earl Says:

    Deanne you are a beautiful inspiration to all women. Please continue your blogging and I wish you all the happiness this world has to offer.

  8. Angela Says:

    Love your writing! Very beautiful and powerful, just like I’m sure you are :)

  9. Deanne Says:

    Thank you for your well wishes. You are all so sweet and your comments mean the world to me.

    Today I had another encounter with a total stranger. At the local health food store, while perusing the organic veggies, I was approached by a bearded barefooted man claiming he was Jesus. He told me he could heal me.

    Can’t wait to see who I meet tomorrow.

  10. Sundee Says:

    Deanne, I don’t know you but I went to school with your husband. All I can say is….WOW! You are such an inspiration to so many. God bless you and your family through all your challenges. I was curious if you have ever read the book “Waiting for Wings” by Heidi Marble. I went to school with her also, and her story is an inspiration also. Just thought that if you hadn’t “met” her, you might want to look her up. Two peas in a pod. My prayers are with you and yours.

  11. Bob Says:

    Bald is beautiful. Period. … trust me

  12. Alan Reid Says:

    Hi Deanne

    It’s like being a pebble and dropped in a pond and seeing how the ripples spread and touch people I never thought I would reach.
    Friends have thanked me because now they have lost their fear of cancer and chemo, both scary enough. And common enough, all of a sudden I hear the stories of cancer around me. Much more than I ever thought possible.
    A friend of mine died last april of cancer, a peaceful death with family at home, his path.

    For me now it is just pure alchemy. The art of using poison to heal. My body is capable of transforming, allowing the poison to pass through me and so I am healing for the better!
    I am really excited about the changes that are happening in my life. What is next year going to be like? cause nothing is going to be the same as it was, so in a way this experience I am going through is the greatest gift I have ever had.
    I am experiencing strength I have not known before, a strange mixture of physical weakness, the feel of chemo, as you know, and a joy for life that is immense and soooo strong! I cant go climbing mountains, my body is dealing with chemo, mountain high enough, for the time being, and at the same time my body perception, mind and awareness are so sharp, it’s fantastic. I am so amazed at how people see me now, like the things happening to you.
    In a way I’d say chemo is purifying.

    That is the way I see it now, Deanne!
    I like our new hairdue!!
    It’s great your sharing and it feels good to share.

    Taking people out of their comfort zone! I like the way you put that! I enjoy it too. Their shocked look and it actually has nothing to do with me, just them seeing their own fears.

    Life and death are inseparable and having chosen life, living it to the fullest.

  13. Lisa Says:

    I love that this stranger made such a impact on you and all the people that read this. You are a total inspiration to soooo many.

  14. Ken, Raundi's friend. Says:

    You really really are amazing. I really like you.

  15. Julia Says:

    “One in eight women in the OC has breast cancer. Where are they? Where are all the bald heads?”

    I keep coming back to this question. Your head is a great big pink ribbon and a huge f* you to cancer. Well done.

  16. Pam Dowling Says:

    Deanne,

    I’m a homeschooling mom and heard about your journey recently through that community. Found you on facebook and through that, found your blog.

    I had breast cancer. I say HAD because if they ran tests on me today they wouldn’t be able to detect any cancer. As you know and accept that’s as good as it gets baby.

    I was diagnosed April 1, 2010. April Fools. Not. I found the lump while showering. I guess it does pay to play with yourself.

    I did things a bit unconventionally, I think that’s just how us homeschoolers roll. I had chemo first. Before anything else. Four rounds (cytoxin and taxotere) started April 2010 ended June 2010. Lumpectomy (oncoplasty) July 2010. 36 Rads of radiation ended October 2010. After surgery there was residual cancer. This was sent to a new testing place with a new testing method for HER2 neu called HERmark. It came back positive. It had been tested 3 times before that with the IHC indeterminate and the FISH negative. Both those tests have a 20 percent false negative rate. Which is what happened in my case. My oncologist saved me by catching this.

    The nitty gritty of ut all is as follows:

    Grade 3, 9 out 9 SBR, 2.5 cm. ER+. PR-.Her2neu+.node negative

    Have been on Herceptin since September 2010. Since I completed chemo in June and didn’t start the Herceptin until September I can tell you the Herceptin is NOT like chemo. It’s nothing really. The first two doses I had hayfever type symptoms for about 4 days and took benadryl to relieve these. And then nothing after that. Function fine and am looking to go back to work.

    I have no neuropathy although I did break out in the shingles after radiation. Caught it quickly.

    Chemo did put me into menopause but, I fell out. Guess I’m going to recover from everything. So I’m on Lupron to keep in menopause so I can take Femara. We decided to go a bit more aggressive. And I’m doing fine. Tolerating it all very well.

    Read all kinds of scary stuff with the Lupron and the Femara and I am experiencing…none of it. I feel better now than before I got diagnosed. And that is a bit scary. I didn’t realize I wasn’t really feeling all that well. But, we are moms and we get busy and…blah blah blah.

    Enjoying your blog and your courage.

    Yes where are all the bald women? Under wigs and hats. And that’s okay everyone has to do their own thing. But, the more we talk about it, the less scary it is. Bad shit happens and this is how we deal.

    I too have experienced what Alan Reid says about actually having people tell me that I have made cancer not scary for them. That amazes me. But, it makes me feel good too.

    Keep your spirits up! You are doing great. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is life before, during and after treatment!

  17. clare Says:

    Your experience is similar to the tummy patting that pregnant women experience. Just as a new baby is part of the human experience that binds us, so it is when one of us is sick. I think our common human-ness comes to the fore and the dross falls away. You are reminding everyone you meet that we are all connected. Your account is very moving and to quote Peter Sellers in “There’s a Girl in my Soup”, “My God but you’re lovely”. Forget Demi Moore and Sinead O’Connor. You are breathtaking bald.

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