This is why. These faces.
In three weeks I am having my head shaved as part of a Bald for Bucks campaign to raise funds for cancer research. It’s a good cause and a horrible disease, but it’s more than that for me. It’s about these faces – these children, and moms and dads and grandmas and aunts and co-workers – who will never look the same to the people who love them. They will forever be changed.
Pictures are categorized as “before illness” and “after illness.” Smiles are judged for broadness. Eyes are examined for brightness. Every moment is viewed in a whole different way. To one mom, a sleepy toddler is a signal for a nap. To another, it’s a signal that disease is ravaging her child’s body. In one family, dad’s raspy voice comes from too much cheering at a ball game. In another, vocal chords are too damaged by cancerous cells to work properly anymore. One grandma may be forgetful sometimes, another cannot even recognize her own family when tumors take over her brain. The person you love becomes a stranger – someone you’d rather not know. Not because you don’t love them, but because you love them so much that you can’t stand the thought of one bit of their perfection being permanently altered by illness. They are forever changed.
Some wear their scars on the outside. Scars from surgeries or treatments designed to make them well. Treatments that often make them very sick, in different ways. Some scars are on the inside. The pain and fear lingers long after. These scars are sometimes shared by those who have loved someone with cancer. It’s difficult to look at an ill person and not see the disease. Its’ difficult to look at a survivor and not see the disease. Fighters and survivors often work hard not to be labeled by their disease. But, family and friends on the outside have a harder time letting go of the label. Their perception is forever changed.
Cancer is a disease that often does not play by the rules. Just when doctors think they understand how it migrates and moves and grows and thrives – and they create medicines and treatments to combat that – it changes the rules. Cancer cheats. It hides cards up its sleeve and uses loaded dice. It is not fair. It does not play well with others. And, worst of all, it holds all the cards. When it decides to move into our bodies, we become the strangers in its home. Our bodies are no longer familiar and comfortable. Cancer is a bully. Once you’ve been the victim of a bully, you are forever changed.
I cannot help these faces. I cannot keep them from getting sick. I cannot heal them once they get sick. I cannot stop it for my neighbors or friends or family. Seeing the suffering inflicted by this horrible disease leaves me feeling helpless. So, along with my son, I shave my head. It’s a silly thing, really. Me being bald for while does not change the status of someone else’s illness. But, maybe someone around me will think differently. Maybe someone new will donate to the cause. Maybe this little spark will somehow join with all the other sparks and start a raging fire that will burn that lying, cheating cancer to the ground! One thing it will always do is leave me forever changed.
Please consider donating to your local cancer society or the Bald for Bucks campaign in your area.
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