I HATE CANCER
Today was a Glorious Day. May I please tell you why?
A dear friend of mine (whom I shall call ‘Cora”) was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer about 6 weeks ago. The treatment is chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
Cora is a very private woman. On July 2nd she and her husband (whom I shall call “Bill”) were with WJJ and me for my birthday. She was “quiet” but nothing else seemed unusual. A couple of days later, Bill called and shared the news about her cancer. Further he said that Cora did not want ANYONE to know about it. Ironically at the exact same time, another dear friend Lulu was also diagnosed with cancer. Lulu wanted all of her friends to know about her cancer so that we could all pray for her. Throughout my life, I have learned that each person handles Cancer differently.
From the moment I found out about Cora, I was texting Bill often. I encouraged him to “let her do this her way”, but also wanted to insure that Cora had a “support team” to help her through this ordeal. I’m sure with the gentle coaxing of Bill, three days later; Cora called me and shared “the news’. Cora is in her mid-50, stunning with long brown hair.
Once we officially knew about the cancer and before her treatment began, we invited Cora and Bill to our home. Being all too familiar with cancer and of course being the rather “pushy” person that I have been known to be, I strongly suggested to Cora she had to get her hair cut–IMMEDIATELY. (We all know what chemotherapy does to one’s hair). She asked, “Why?” and I gently explained that it was to her advantage to do so.
Before her chemo even started, Cora followed my suggestion and had her haircut to a “bob”. When she came over again, I KNEW that hair was not cut short enough. If you know anyone who has endured chemotherapy, you know ….cut that hair SHORT –because if you don’t the trauma of having your hair fall out with bald spots showing up everywhere is almost unbearable.
Her first week of chemo was not good. She got an infection. So they put her on antibiotics. Week 2, she was still very week. So we knew she was not really up to “socializing” but we also figured out that her family needed some sense of normalcy. So we invited Bill and the family for a BBQ. As always, our son Jamie was fabulous–friendly, fun, and incredibly witty. He also did all the cooking!
I have been in constant contact with Bill. My friend has had NO desire to be among her friends or in fact socialize at all. While a few more people know about her cancer… again…. Cora is very private. Plus she’s ill and lethargic. She is coping with finding out that she has cancer, undergoing chemo and knowing that she will have to have surgery and radiation. She has a long road ahead of her.
As women, I know how we feel about our hair. It is often our “crowning glory”.
But as I stated earlier, I have witnessed what chemo does to one’s body and, of course, one’s hair. So I repeatedly shared with Bill that Cora’s hair needed to be cut SHORT… VERY SHORT… VERY VERY SHORT. Further I half jokingly said, I would be delighted to “do the cutting”.
Today is our 46th Anniversary…. As you know I married WJJ when I was nine. So while I was quietly celebrating all the joys of my life, I got a call from Bill. He said, “She’s ready… Bring your scissors over and I’ll make the martini.”
I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll be right over.” I had not seen Cora in three weeks. But I gathered my brush, my comb, my rollers– (that’s how I cut) and off I went. (Some of my UndercoverWear Agents will remember I cut Yvonne Hebert’s hair at our theme night at Rendezvous. She was a good sport and I did a GREAT job)
When Cora answered the door, I was not fully prepared for how she looked.
Her skin is sallow. She has lost weight and her normally beautiful hair looked dull and thinner. My goal was to cut her hair SHORT, but keeping a little ‘style” –knowing full well –that it would be very temporary. But I figured…steps…baby steps.
Cora wanted to cut her hair in the bathroom –made sense. But I was not going to stick her in a small room. No we were doing it in the kitchen/entertainment area with her family around. Do you think I cared where the hair was going to fall? Nope!
As I started brushing her hair, I realized that my styling thoughts might have to change. Clumps of Cora’s hair gathered on the brush. I started cutting. At first I was methodical, taking three inches off each layer. Then I would brush it. –More hair falling in my hands and to the ground–lots of hair. I was not fully prepared for this.
Thank God I have some acting ability. I joked and talked about my exorbitant fees of being an “on call” stylist. Her children were there and I could see the fear in their eyes, while they also seemed grateful that for the first time in weeks, Cora was talking and even smiling.
One of the girls gathered the hair and tossed it into the trash. As I continued to cut, Cora mentioned that she had not brushed her hair in 3 days because the last time she did, lots of hair fell out. I understood & I continued to brush.
Cora’s first bald spot appeared in front. That’s when I knew —95% of her hair had already fallen out. So I kept cutting and brushing and preparing Cora that — I was cutting it all off. Despite the fact that the chemo had already done its damage, I said, “Cora, we are taking control of your hair –that damn cancer is not.” Ok I lied.
The more I brushed the more hair dropped. Actually I didn’t have to brush it, I merely had to touch her hair and it just kept falling out. There was one “stubborn” spot in the back that I cut within a quarter of an inch –but I’m sure that will be gone tomorrow.
Several times, I had her look in the mirror before completion. She had prepared herself. Like most men, Bill had no idea how to do or what to say. His best comment, “Cora, you have a really nicely shaped head”. Thank you Bill –LOL
When we finished, Cora looked in the mirror and said, “OK, we did it”. She then quickly put on a turban. She was cold–she said. Probably not valid –she probably wanted to hide her baldness even from herself. That will change–she will deal. Cora is strong.
Bill had shared with me that the Dr. said Cora had to start leaving the house and get some exercise. So starting tomorrow “because I’m trying to lose weight”, Cora and I will take a 15 minute walk each day.
Again, using my God given “gentle manipulation skills”, I suggested to Cora that she needed a manicure (her nails are normally perfect) and that tomorrow, time to start putting on that makeup again.
Further, I shared with Cora that she and I are going to have fun on “wig day”. As many of you know, thanks to my many roles in UndercoverWear, I own 30 or 40 wigs. So with Cora’s family and Cora we were joking about being Marilyn Monroe or Cher. BTW, Cora has already bought a natural looking wig –but we still MUST have wig day. Why? Cancer is horrible and the treatment is horrendous. .
In the next few weeks Cora will probably get worse. We MUST give Cora some semblance of fun and humor and enjoyment–no matter how small or how silly. She, like every Cancer patient, has to take as much control as she can. In any small way, she must take the power away from Cancer! As difficult as it is, she cannot see herself as a victim of Cancer. She must see herself as a Conqueror of Cancer…the ultimate success a Cancer Survivor.
After all this, one might ask, “Why was this a glorious day?” As I walked in the house, I thanked God that He has given me the humor and wisdom to help others.
I cannot tell you how difficult it was when I walked in and saw my beautiful friend who was now, now thin, rather yellow, with sadness in her eyes.
Words cannot describe how much control I had to have when the first large clump of Cora’s fell into my hands or when I saw that very large bald spot as I continued to brush. As tears were ready to start forming in my eyes…. God gave me the words and strength to say “Tiffany knock it off”.
Let me be clear… My emotions waned in comparison to what Cora was feeling. This is her journey. And she will handle it in HER way. I learned a long time ago, that now matter what book you read and what advice you get, you are only a support person to a Cancer patient, they have the right do it “their way”.
I knew that because I had been “called upon” to help Cora deal with her new reality, I had been blessed. And it was God who gave me the skills to be humorous, the strength to not show any sad emotion, and the wisdom to “council Cora” while still reinforcing that this is her journey–this is her battle.
Walter and Jamie asked me how everything went. And while I “shared” a bit, for some reason despite the fact that Cora’s entire family were watching and participating in this “experience”, I felt strongly that this was just “our little secret”.
So why I am sharing it with YOU? Because you don’t know who Cora is! And I feel the lesson here is much too valuable not to share. What is that lesson? If you are ever called upon to help a cancer patient win their battle, please do whatever you can with your God given talents to help them & guide, them, but always allow them to move forward with their strength and dignity. Remember always, it is their journey–it is their battle and just pray that they win!
PS. Lulu’s surgery went well and we are waiting for the biopsy reports. Please pray for her … and Cora!
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OMG – while reading this, I cried to think another woman has to go thru this. I am so sorry for “Cora” and will certainly pray for her and YOU. Yes, thank God for what he has given you and the ability to share with others. God Damn Cancer – please God – find a cure!
I know you are not sharing this to get praise – but….I’m giving it to you. I would probably be a blubbering idiot!
Please keep me posted and if there is anything I can do, please don’t hesitate Out of sight, certainly not out of mind.
Hang in there my dear friend!!!!
This hit home as I have shared the cancer battle with a very dear friend and I so understand it’s their journey! I thank god for the privilege of being part of the journey even though the battle was lost after two years. It will be a part of me always! Glad Cora and LuLu have you Tiffany James! Your the best! I’ll be praying for both and know you will help these two friends in the journey !!!! XOXO Peggy McKinney
This is such an. Amazing testimony of how a great friend can be there to help you find your way on a journey. And allow you to do it in your own time and way with out judgement. You are so very right about allowing a friend to make there own decisions while being there to support them when needed. Cora and her family is and will be in my thought’s and prayers.
Tiffany, you are definitely an angel of God here on earth. What a heartening story. God bless you.
I totally understand how you must have been feeling. Years ago, about 15-16 my niece was diagnosed with Cancer, leukemia. She had long beautiful blonde hair that reached the middle of her back. At the time she had to have been 5 or 6. I remember my sister asking me to cut her hair. I am a licensed cosmetologist so that was natural thing for me to do. I too at the time was not prepared exactly for the hair to collect in the brush or on the floor, but like you said, we remain witty and handle the moment with grace. We hold back our own tears and remain strong for them. For me it was difficult but I knew her journey was much much more difficult.
She has won her battle and has been in remission for several years. She is getting married soon and her hair has grown back. She lives every moment to the fullest. A lesson we all should learn.
I will keep your friends in my thoughts and prayers as they go through their journey. With strength and prayers, God bless for speedy recovery.
Tiffany, This past winter Phil and I were out in Arizona helping his baby sister get through her breast removel. It is so true that this is “their walk”. I was there to laugh with her and cry with her. So your story brought many memories.
The thing that I would say is….if I ever come down with cancer that I will want you fighting and laughing and crying with me. My prayers are with both ladies and you.
Love and hugs Terry Barnes
Such a great honor and inspiration. Cancer does suck but you are spot on. They need to make the decisions.
It was 13 years ago April that I had breast cancer. I remember cutting my hair and loosing it, having to take off my acrylic nail, and feelin like I didn’t have conto of my life. Yes surgery, chemo, radiation and so far 13 years of remission. I am always available for listening, encourageing, and consoling. If telling my story will help anyone I am always available. Prayers for all who take this journey.
How are your friends doing? You too! When our friends hurt, we do too!!!