I look in the mirror and it shows on my face. I stand in the shower and rinse the suds from my hair, and then I look in the palm of my hand.
Hair. So. much. hair.
I hold onto it for a moment and then watch it flow toward the drain. Day after day my hair gathers until the water pools around my feet. Eventually, I have to unclog it, and the hair is once again in my hand. There’s more of it this time.
I throw the hair in the garbage. I slip on my white bathrobe, and vow to eat better, to eat less. I plot healthier ways to combat the stress.
I have to save my hair. I want my pretty skin back. I want the dark circles to go away.
Then, I’m having milk and chocolate for lunch.
I break the pieces off the bar and for a few seconds I’m someplace else. I’m talking boys and the Goo Goo Dolls, and she’s copying my literature homework. We’re scraping ice off the windshield of her first car with plastic spoons. We’re sitting in Starbucks when there was only one in our city. We’re spending our babysitting money at the mall, the weight of a mortgage beyond our understanding. We’re young and can’t yet be bothered with thoughts of death; we’ve got first kisses on our mind.
The silver paper crinkles in my hand, and the bar of chocolate is gone. The memories fade a bit. The day is dark though the sun is bright. I make no plans to see anyone, and instead go back to bed. I don’t remember much of the summer of 2013, that is, not much besides the helplessness.
I’ve internalized what’s happening around me, and my hair and face will show you that. I admit that I’ve had weeks in which I’ve flung prayers to heaven, and watched the laundry tower on the couch. Days have been scheduled with nothing but the task of hope; sometimes that’s all I can manage.
It is autumn now, and I find myself joining in the mummers over how summer went by too fast and how it’s suddenly getting darker earlier. Yet, the truth is that my whole summer felt dark.
This wasn’t how her thirtieth year was supposed to go. Cancer wasn’t supposed to be part of her family’s life, or my life, or anyone’s life.
Cancer is not a gift.
I think cancer is ugly and destructive, and can’t be made pretty in pink. You can’t make cancer sexy with talk of saving “the girls” or “I love boobies” bracelets; it’s just not possible. There aren’t enough ribbons or races or dreams of a cure that make its reality any less frightening. The battle with cancer doesn’t suddenly make sense when shrouded in some talk of God’s sovereignty.
If I believe that every good and perfect gift comes from above, then God did not place cancer in my friend’s body. God did not will it in her flesh or in her bones. The author of life cannot be the author of death. When I pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” cancer has no place there.
The truth I believe is that my friend is a gift. Her life has always been celebrated and will continue to be celebrated, cancer free or not.
I look in the mirror, dab the concealer under my eyes, twist my hair to the side, and pull the navy sweatshirt over my head. I slip on my red shoes, and shuffle out the door to meet another friend for dinner; she’ll understand my sweatshirt. She’ll understand why she didn’t see me much over the summer.
Hello, autumn, I’m here, a few pounds heavier than when we met last, praying “on earth as it is in heaven” a little more fervently than any September that has come before.