The event I had planned for the next evening was kind of like a party or a shower… if you took out all of the joy. As hostess I would rather not have had this particular reason to send the invitations and I seriously doubted that anyone would want to accept.
No. Unlike a standard gathering to celebrate an upcoming wedding or arrival of a baby, it wasn’t a happy occasion at all. Rather, it was a vulnerable invitation to intimacy, for me and for them. I was asking my friends to help me mark a significant moment in my journey with breast cancer.
My oncologist had told me that I could expect my hair to start falling out about twenty days after my first chemotherapy treatment. I had prepared for the event by researching the available methods of covering the resulting baldness. It seemed I had three main options: wigs, turban/scarf combinations, or hats. Some brave women even manage to embrace their new look by going bare-headed!
Wigs are a popular choice for many women but not for me. The thought of wearing fake (or even real) hair just didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to disguise my hair loss as much as I wanted to effectively cover my soon-to-be naked head, hopefully, with some degree of attractiveness.
The best products seemed to be designed by women who had actually experienced cancer. I bought a couple and gathered my small collection of scarves together. I was ready, or so I thought.
Two weeks after my first chemotherapy treatment the gentle rain of hair began.
Watching the strands slipping softly through my fingers to the floor wasn’t as upsetting as I had anticipated. I felt relieved… at least now that part of the ever-present waiting that comes with cancer was over.
I had read the stories of other women who had chosen to take this proactive approach to the whole hair loss issue by shaving their heads and it made sense to me. The idea is to give yourself some control over your body while dealing with an illness that oftentimes makes you feel helpless.
One woman turned her hair cropping session into a party that involved food, drink, and making merry with her family while her fourteen-year-old son did the honors! While that seemed like a positive take on what might otherwise be a depressing moment I decided that I wanted to go about it differently.
The next evening my friends joined me at my home for my impromptu head shaving “party.”
I had invited these women from my church community to come along-side me during what I felt was a significant time in my journey with Jesus through cancer. This was hard. Part of me wanted to just get it over with by doing it privately so I wouldn’t have to risk showing what I suspected were going to be vulnerable places in my heart.
But I have learned during the last decade or so that when I want to run there is often a blessing to be missed. And as Jesus has continued over the years to lovingly draw me to Himself, I have learned to listen to His voice and in doing so, resist the deceptively comforting urge to hide.
So when this idea occurred to me I decided to go through with it even though I thought it was a little weird. After all…
- It’s too depressing to invite people to something like this.
- They might feel uncomfortable… which really meant, I’ll be uncomfortable!
- It’s so last-minute.
Besides, who wants to go to something like this on a Friday night? Apparently… my courageous and loving friends did.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV)
I went into the evening feeling a little nervous. After all, I’ve never had my head shaved before and I anticipated feeling embarrassed and emotional. And although the women I had invited are my sisters-in-Christ, none of them are longtime friends as we have only been in Fort Worth a bit over two years.
So a steady flow of “what if” questions flowed through my thoughts all day… what if I cry… what if I look hideous… what if it’s awkward… what if, what if, including the worst one of all… what if no one comes? (That last one is tricky because part of me also hoped they wouldn’t!)
But come they did…
And like the blessing of rain after a time of drought, grace fell on our little gathering.
Six friends, two daughters, and two granddaughters gathered around me to give and receive love from our Heavenly Father. Ten souls joined me in my suffering and blessed me with their gentle and tender care.
- Words of love and healing were spoken over me in prayers to Jesus, my Healer.
- Laughter mixed with tears flowed and opened up tightly closed places in my heart.
- Gifts of beauty… hats and scarves… were presented with a love and understanding that touched me deeply.
And to my great surprise, I felt no need to hide.
They saw me and accepted me in the midst of it all. My dear ones loved me in Jesus’s name and in doing so, they helped to carry my burden.
I am carried by the love of Christ through this portion of His body here in Fort Worth… and I’ve never felt any lighter.