“I’m going to lose most of my hair.”
“Don’t think like that. Don’t give in.”
I was confused and dumbstruck. It was not a reaction I was prepared for and only a while later did I understand.
I’d been coming to terms with losing my hair over the past months. The fact that I’d gone through it before made it a certainty. Understandably, the news was new to my colleague and my attitude to it gave him some unintended clue to a misdirected response. Perhaps in shock at the thought, he was subconsciously comforting himself not to give in to the emotive image. After all, I didn’t look ill but losing my hair would be an in-the-face reminder of my affliction.
Giving in would be to gather all the woe-is-me drama and wallow. I don’t deny having times like these – often. I feel they’ve been useful.
They’ve taught me to recognise this wallowing space whenever I return so that each visit is shorter. I know that only by having often fallen into the space, experiencing it fully each time, recognising it for what it is on subsequent visits, and accepting that this dark space exists within me, is it possible for me to move out of it peacefully. By the end of this phase of my life I suspect I that when I have cause to find its edge in future, I’ll be able to smile wryly at it and move around it.
Sadly and yet understandably, for many terminally ill people, the hole of giving in is too strong for their willpower to fight against.
My acceptance meant dropping to this sad place in my heart and, facing squarely what I was up against, I could know my enemy and take a useful course of action in the healing process. Once I’d grieved for myself, I knew to pick up so that I could carry on. I used various tools for this.
If you have cancer, know that it’s okay to be sad. It’s a shitty hand you’ve been dealt – whether you believe in karma or not. Take your time with the sadness but do deal with it so that you can take the next step – no matter how small. We can only reach great things by taking each small step laid out in front of us.
“I haven’t given in. It’s a matter of fact, not attitude, that my hair will become as thin as yours although mine will be temporary. I’ve accepted it. Your turn.”