The waiting room was crowded. It was my second time there and, though I wasn’t scared as last time, I was dreading the long day to come. Four women sat nearby, laughing and talking together. I’d seen them before and knew they were all waiting, like me, for a chemo treatment. Two were patients, the other two were friends there to encourage and comfort.
I glanced at the women wearing baseball caps, barely hiding their bald heads. I touched my head a moment. My doctor had told me I would begin to lose my hair ten to fourteen days after the first treatment. It was day 21 and I had been gradually losing my hair for over a week. Though I have often complained over my lifetime of my thick, curly hair, I vowed never to do so again when it grew back. And although most of the women said once their hair began falling out, they just had their head shaved, I just couldn’t do it.
There were dozens of aspects of cancer and the side effects of treatments that I hated, and yet this one had hit me hard for some reason. The four women told stories of their individual hair loss situations. The two friends were cancer survivors. They told of when and how their hair had grown back. I leaned forward, eager to hear their stories. But as they all turned to talk of how they lost their hair, joking over stories of adventures with wigs, hats, and scarves, I began to feel sick to my stomach. Suddenly, I began to cry quietly and couldn’t stop.
My husband reached over and took my hand. “Are you okay?” he whispered. I nodded. When I could finally speak I whispered back, “I know they’ve gone through this longer than me and are accepting things with humor, but right now, it’s just not funny.” I looked away from the women, hoping they would not see my tears. It had been only a few weeks since I’d had surgery, a few weeks of knowing that I was a cancer patient. I had only recently been able to hear this word without crying, only recently been able to even say it. I often felt well other than the first few days after chemo, but I knew with my hair loss that even when I felt good, I’d have that constant reminder of my illness. How could I escape the fear?
The next day, I read a daily devotional for that day. “LUKE 12:7 NIV, 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” I thought of the hairs in my hairbrush, on my pillow, in my hat I was wearing. I reach up and ran my fingers through my hair and found more than a dozen strands had come loose. Even though they weren’t on my head anymore, God knew how many strands were in my brush, on my pillow, in my hat, and in my hand. He had counted them all. With or without the hair on my head, God knew me and what my future held.
A few days after most of my hair had gone, I received a check from a friend at church who had raised funds from other friends for me to order a wig and whatever other coverings I wanted to help me feel better. God’s love was shown again through His children. In less than a week, a box arrived. I opened it and pulled out the beautiful reddish brown wig, a hat, and two bandanas. I touched the wig, so different from my own hair. Straight and short where mine had been curly and longer, more red where mine had been a dishwater blonde. I took it into the bedroom, removed the protective hairnet, and put it on. It felt a bit strange, and looked a lot strange. Was I still me?
The wig was a hit. Everyone loved it. Family and friends praised how good it looked on me. Did God number the hairs on my wig? I was still afraid. Afraid of the cancer, the chemo, the upcoming CT Scan and its results. But I knew God would be with me through it all. In the bushes against our home, many sparrows live and build their own homes. God created those sparrows and they mean a lot to Him. But the Bible tells me that I mean more. I don’t know if I can ever laugh over my hair loss as the women in the waiting room did. But I know that God watches over me and cares for what is happening to me, even in the loss of my hair. He put it into the hearts of my friends to make the wig possible, something that is purely an emotional cure. And if He cares so much about such small things, how many more ways does He care for the big things in my life? I can’t even begin to count them.
Kathryn Lay: Cancer was always the thing that terrified me the most, and when they said it looked like my uterine tumor was probably cancerous, I told my husband… “I can’t do this”. But, I did and with him and friends and family and most of all God, I got through it and am 3 years a survivor as of next month. I’ve been blessed to be able to continue my writing career and saw the picture book published that I received an acceptance on 1 week before surgery. It was published 2 years to the week of the day I came home from the hospital and began my recovery. You can see more about me and my writing at www.kathrynlay.com