Sometimes it seems there is a huge divide between the silliness of my day to day life and the seriousness of this blog. To help restore a little balance, here is an image of real-me, real-now. I do so love being ridiculous!
Photo courtesy Elsha
As I type this, I have nearly 100% less hair than I did the last time I posted.
My progression toward baldness began with reading the post “Blissfully Bald,” in which my friend Chris (From the Bungalow) announced that he and his wife, Karin (Pinwheels and Poppies), would be shaving their heads for St. Baldrick’s. Their inspiration, Donna’s Cancer Story, chronicled one girl’s 31-month battle with cancer.
I’d seen references to Donna’s Cancer Story since September, but it seemed like such a commitment to follow a 31-day blog series. Also, really depressing. I couldn’t imagine a more depressing read.
After reading “Blissfully Bald,” I knew I’d have to read Donna’s Cancer Story. That Friday evening, I settled in and began reading about Donna.
I cried. Oh, how I cried. But I also felt barriers between me and others removed by growing understanding. Through Mary Tyler Mom‘s open, raw descriptions of her daughter Donna’s life with cancer, “them” became “us.” “Those parents” became “someone who could be me”; the children, “someone who could be my son.”
My world grew simultaneously smaller and larger.
As a writer, I (naturally) had to write my way toward clarity. I did so in my post “On bald heads & being unending.” I let people know where they could donate to team Blissfully Bald.
On Valentine’s Day, following a prompt from Chris, I joined an abundance of bloggers in writing about the March head-shaving event in which Chris and Karin would be shaving their heads. I knew I’d be in Chicago for the event, as well as to catch up with my old friend Dana, but I had no idea I’d end up joining team Blissfully Bald.
On March 11, Chris sent an email including the following paragraph:
I just wanted to mention that anyone can join our team or Team Donna! If you are/will be in the Chicago area on March 24th, we’d love to see you. And if you decided to join our team as a shavee, well, we’d love you forever.
“Damn it, Chris,” I muttered.
Once thoughts like that get in my brain, it’s hard to make them go away. Typically they’ll only do so if I do something like sign up. Which I did the next day.
I’d like to say mine was a really considered choice, but it wasn’t. There were little fragments of thoughts here and there, but mostly it was a gut choice inspired by a girl named Donna who’s been in my mind and heart every day since I read her cancer story over a 12-hour period.
I wrote about my decision to join team Blissfully Bald here. It still didn’t feel like a huge decision, exactly. Just something I was doing.
Then I started reading the comments, both on the blog and on my Facebook page. I learned about more people who’d fought or continue to fight cancer and was bowled over. What started as “something I’d be doing for Donna in a few days” became something all-consuming. Something that I felt bound me so much more powerfully to this world, and to the hearts of others. Beautiful, inspired, inspiring hearts.
The days flew by. I found myself in Chicago. I was a little nervous, but a lot excited.
I got to meet Katy (I Want a Dumpster Baby), whom I instantly loved every bit as much as I thought I would.
By the time we parted ways, I felt like I’d known her forever. Indeed, my heart continues to insist it has.
That evening, I met my teammates. Like Katy, I loved (and laughed with!) them immediately, and couldn’t believe for a second we’d only just met.
By the time Chris and Karin collected me the next morning, I was feeling anything but collected. I’d had a rough night’s sleep, imagining everything that could go wrong the next day and fearing what I couldn’t imagine–in other words, everything about the event.
As we ate lunch just before the event, my anxiety had a direct line to my bladder, which it used to send me scrambling to the bathroom four times in an hour and a half.
Arriving at the event venue, the very place where Donna had celebrated each of her birthdays, I found my nerves instantly soothed. I looked into the faces of others who’d soon be shaving their heads as well as those cheering the shavees on and knew I was safe. I couldn’t imagine anything bad happening, but I knew I’d be fine if it did.
We met Mary Tyler Mom. I wanted to crush her with hugs and tell her how much she’d changed my life with her words, but instead simply hugged her.
We chatted. We schmoozed. We checked out the haps. We hugged Katy lots when she arrived.
Chris was one of the first to get his head shaved.
Karin followed soon after.
My slot was an hour and a half after Karin’s. I was impatient for its arrival, but needn’t have been. It came quickly.
What I’d built up in my head to a momentous, earth-shattering thing was instead quick. Painless. Hardly noteworthy.
My hair was divided into four ponytails I’ll (hopefully) donate to Locks of Love.
Each ponytail was clipped.
My hair was cut.
My head was shaved.
I beamed the whole time. Just beamed.
When I stood in front of a bathroom mirror a couple of minutes later and took in the change, impossibly, I found myself smiling wider still.
I was seeing me. Me unconcealed.
By the time my friend Dana arrived, fresh in from Ireland, I must’ve rubbed my head 100 times already.
Dana returned my sock puppet Arrrgyle, who’d visited Ireland with her for reasons described here, but demanded a picture in exchange.
Dana, her honey and I left the Candlelite shortly afterward, but we had time for a few more pictures first.
By the time I returned to my hotel around 8 p.m., full up on Indian food, I was equal parts exhausted and happy.
I’d started out the day so anxious I was shaking, only to conclude the day so calm I could’ve given 90% of my calm away and still been feeling just dandy.
In the morning it had seemed like such a huge thing to be shaving off my hair, not just for me but for the people whose loved ones’ names I held in my hands (on a couple pieces of paper) and heart throughout the day.
By the evening, it seemed such a small offering. A token, or one-tenth of one, especially in comparison to all those who’ve lost their hair in the hopes that doing so would allow them to only lose their hair.
My baldness pales by compare, but I hope that someone, somewhere, someday will know greater health because of my small step toward conquering cancer. I wish everyone, everywhere could know that health now, but that’s outside the power of any one individual. Real progress will be in the accumulation of all our small steps, one added to the other added to the other.
My steps were small, but in the right direction, and taken with arms linked through those of so many other steppers, each of whose steps take might different forms, but all of whose steps leads us toward a brighter world less full of needless loss.
It’s thinking of all those steps we’re taking together, with arms and hearts linked, that I leave Chicago not only bald, but blissfully bald.
- Read Karin’s account at My Tale of Baldness, Bliss, Magic, and Cheese Sandwiches.
© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.