I finally had the opportunity to safely visit the dentist since 2019 (first it was the pandemic, then it was chemo). The receptionist greeted me as I entered the building. She was giving me total hair envy with her shoulder-length wavy, blonde hair. After checking me in she handed me some documents to sign and said, “your hair is so cute!”
“Oh, you think? I’m growing it out after chemo and I don’t really like it.” Well, it’s true. She responded by telling me that she really did mean it, but she understood because she remembered losing hers. After some conversation, I learned she went through chemo about seven years ago. She’s been cancer free since then. Now she looks just like anyone else; there was nothing about her that made me think “chemo” or “sick” or “cancer.”
Seven. Years. Now that sounds good.
When I first found out I had to go through chemo, I didn’t want to be part of “the club.” You know, the chemo club. The women who were all encouragement and survivors and little ribbons and slogans. I’m not sure if I was just being naive or in denial. I hoped I could put my head down, get through it, and put it in the rear-view mirror. I didn’t really want to hang out and join “the club.” I just wanted to get beyond it.
But now I have a different perspective. The lady at the dentist’s office wasn’t just a slogan or a cheerleader. She was a symbol of hope. Seven years. And she understood something that most other people don’t. She knows how it feels to lose your hair and your identity and to not see yourself in the mirror anymore. She remembered how exhausting this is, even a few months later when I’m getting back to normal. She just…got it.
I still want to put cancer and chemo behind me. Forever. But now I’ll accept my membership card. Hopefully one day I’ll be that symbol of hope and kindness for someone else.