Six Ways to Sunday
As family legend goes, I bit the doctor once. The pediatrician. When he wanted to give me that super tiny prick test that checks for TB. I wanted nothing to do with his needles, so apparently I just up and bit him.
I still don't like needles.
But I don't bite doctors anymore.
* * *
I wanted to scream "DO NOT TOUCH ME" at both the nurse and the lab tech who drew the short straw to deal with my lab work on Monday. I am just over being poked and prodded. I am over being stuck. My little body is at its wits end and I was on the brink of being "that patient" most of Monday morning.
I guess everyone has their edge. And I had reached mine.
* * *
"Can you meet me today to shave my head? I think I'm ready."
It was early Tuesday morning and I had reached another edge - the place where I could no longer deny that my hair wasn't going to make it through chemo this time. Hair was coming out by the handful, filling me with dread each time I touched my head. I hadn't dared to brush it in at least a week - I was certain the whole lot of it would come out all at once.
So after some finagling between the ladies who wanted to be there, we settled on 4:30. By 5pm I would be bald.
I thought I was ready.
Spoiler alert - I wasn't as ready as I thought.
* * *
I tried to watch TV and with every show I found myself wondering, what would happen to that family if he got cancer? Thinking, if she was sick, I bet he would leave her. Mentally demanding that the producers start giving illnesses to their characters because, damn it, some of us don't get made for TV lives.
So I turned the TV off.
Know what you shouldn't do when you realize the TV is bad for your mental state? Get on the internet.
But that's what I did.
And then I just got angry over all the happy families on Facebook. All the people living normal lives on Instagram. By the time I slammed the laptop shut, I was begging God to tell me why I can't have that - the partner, the family, the life without chemo. Why did cancer have to come back and tear my world apart? Again?
Of course - I know the answer to this. So God could heal me in all the ways He is currently healing me, so that my testimony will be stronger later. But when you're looking down the barrel of a razor blade, you kind of lose touch with that knowledge.
"Thy will be done" goes out the window when you're about to let your friend shave your head and you'd rather be braiding your pig tails.
* * *
A few years ago I got really annoyed by a news story about some cheerleaders who shaved their heads in solidarity with someone going through chemo. I couldn't find the words for why this aggrieved me so badly back then. But now I know.
Because chemo doesn't let you choose to shave your head. Those cheerleaders - for all their good intentions - they got to choose.
Just a few months ago I kicked around the idea of shaving my head.
Let that sink in - the very thing that has been keeping me up nights is something I was voluntarily considering mere weeks ago. But back then - it was my choice. Now - its just being handed to me. Like a punishment. I don't get to decide.
In recovery, Step 1 is all about powerlessness. I am being schooled in Step 1 right now. I'm basically in an AP class I never registered for. Powerlessness 301.
* * *
We shaved my head and I cried. We talked about the symbolism - shaving off the old life to let the new replace it.
I didn't look in the mirror for the rest of the night.
Until 2am - when I screamed at my reflection when I accidentally caught it.
* * *
I've been heartbroken six ways to Sunday in the last two months, and the last steps toward becoming bald felt like the final slam of the sledgehammer to my already fragile heart. Its shattered in pieces everywhere, finally ready to be re-formed into something stronger and larger than it was before. Its time for God to use these pieces to create a mosaic reflecting His will.
This little detour in my plans has been awful and amazing. Destructive and redeeming. Filled with great suffering and great love.
As Richard Rohr explains:
Any journey of great love or great suffering makes us go deeper into our faith and eventually into what can only be called universal truth. Love and suffering are finally the same, because those who love deeply are committing themselves to eventual suffering, as we see in Jesus. And those who suffer often become the greatest lovers.
Right now, this may feel like a journey of great suffering. But God has instilled in my heart a peace in the fact that the result will be great love. And its the promise that will get me through.
Bald head and all.