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Finding Humor in Loss

Pam, who lives in Elgin, South Carolina, is a wife, mother, creative -- and breast cancer badass. She was diagnosed IDC Triple Positive at 47 on June 22, 2020 and is still in active treatment. She had a total mastectomy to aesthetic flat closure on Dec. 2, 2020 and says her risky tits are gone and she is now the "Boobless Wonder."

Breast cancer is a many splendored cluster of 1,000 "what the f's" a second. Mostly overwhelming but in the midst of being completely bombarded by the many facets that accompany the diagnosis, a warped and twisted sense of humor is uncovered, never to be tucked back in. Why should I? To find humor in something so horrendous, I am allowed to let it all hang out, including my scalp.

When I got the call from my gynecologist, I was standing in the grocery store line trying to pay for my food, ingredients to make tacos, instead I got tacos and a diagnosis -- what an appetizer. Thus the expedition began.

The day before I was scheduled to begin active treatment, the "Big Guns Chemo," as my oncologist called it, I made the decision to shave my own head. I had beautiful long brown hair, halfway down my back. To have an inkling of control, I decided to save myself some torment and be proactive and take the clippers to it -- then donate it.

It was a Monday in July, I walked into my salon, sectioned my hair into small ponytails, which resembled Cynthia from the Rugrats, and FaceTimed my oldest daughter. I set up the phone and she stayed with me, while she ate Taco Bell in her car, while I did the deed. I was her dinner and a show. I started down the middle and then jokingly said I changed my mind. She and I laughed. When I finished, I felt strong as if I had taken the driver's seat in the process, GI Jane like, reporting for duty to battle the war for my life.

A few days later, I had gotten out of the shower. Sitting on the side of the tub, I was leaning over polishing my toenails when low and behold, something falls, hitting my leg. A towel. I had my head wrapped up as if I had shampooed my long hair. Old habits die hard.

There are many stages of hair growth when it begins. The first stage, peach fuzz, chia pet hair. It has a mind of its own, stands up everywhere and is spotty.

The second stage is the skirted egg shell, the last bit of hair to fill in is, you guessed it, the crown and the hairline around my face. A mini mullet is appearing.

The next stage, the Heat Miser, as in the children’s classic, Rudolph. My hair would not be forced into control, even with a cement like product. Thankfully, that stage passed pretty quickly.

The following stage is when it all fills in and people begin to notice. The comments on how cute my haircut is, which is followed by my pointing at my head and saying snarkily, "This?"

The response is usually, "But you can pull off short hair so well. You aren’t going to keep it short?" I respond as follows: "I have two words for you -- Crystal Gayle. As long as it will grow for as long as I can stand it!" Some people don’t know who that is, blasphemous if I should say so myself. I’m equipped though and whip out my phone and pull up the photo of her and her long mane that is saved on my phone.

It’s just hair, yes it is but it is my hair. I loved it and will again. Losing it to cancer is different than wanting a short cut seen in a magazine, making an appointment and getting the new do.

With cancer, loss is experienced in many ways, finding humor in that loss is what makes all the difference in surviving the fight for our lives.

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