I've written before about my vanity. I've written about why I wear scarves instead of hats. I've written about my fear of letting the world see my now nearly bald head. Today I want to talk about the public's reaction to those of us with cancer.
I haven't really talked it about it much. I haven't discussed how wearing a scarf out in public immediately brands you as someone with cancer. It does. When you wear a hat in public, especially a baseball cap, there is always the possibility that you just had a bad hair day. But a scarf - that's your badge, your identifier. Wearing a scarf in public practically guarantees stares, sympathetic half-smiles, or those well-meaning looks of pity. Total strangers will ask you what type of cancer you have, and what your prognosis is. And when you come across another scarf wearer, you share a look - you too? Yes - me too. It didn't matter what type of cancer we had - we just knew we were part of the same tribe. The tribe of fighters. Of survivors.
I didn't like the stares, but I never minded the questions. I've never shied away from answering questions, and encouraging conversation about my type of cancer. Part of that is because I'm just not that secretive a person (as you might have noticed here). Part of it is because so little is known about ovarian cancer, and I think it's important to share what I know about the symptoms so that maybe someone else can get diagnosed early, and not have to go through what I've had to go through over the last 8 months. Part of it is because many of those who know about ovarian cancer think it's an automatic death sentence, and I want them to know it's not.
Since I'm currently not undergoing chemo, my hair is growing out. It's still pretty short, but it's coming in thick. I'm still hoping for chemo curls. It's gray - good gracious, it's gray. But it's growing back. Now that it's summer and I have a bit of hair, wearing a scarf is hot. Hot hot hot. One day last week, after about the 15th hot flash of the day, I pulled that scarf off and didn't put it back on. I drove home without out it. And I decided I was done with it. Done with wearing that badge of cancer. Done with hiding my head.
Done with being only seen as cancer.
Since then, I go about bare headed. Guess what? I don't get stared at as much. It's like without the scarf, I'm just a normal unremarkable person again. Granted, one with very short hair, but just your average everyday gray headed chick. I was so sure that I would be stared at more. I had no idea it would be the opposite.
I had heard that going around bald was freeing. I thought they meant it was just being free from all the styling and grooming. I had no idea it freed you from the stares. From the badge. From being one of the cancer tribe. I'm not real sure how I feel about that. Yet I know one thing.
I don't miss that scarf.