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A Blogger's Cancer Journey: Part 8

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February 20, 2007
My Pride and Joy

I've always worried about losing my hair to chemo. Breast cancer is such an epidemic that we think about things like that, just like I'd considered what I'd do if I lost a breast to cancer. Is “lost” the right word? I'm reminded of the line from The Importance of Being Earnest: "Losing one parent is a misfortune; but losing both parents is plain carelessness."

I had a friend, a jokester, who used to open his wallet and ask if you wanted to see his pride and joy. Then he'd pull out a card with a picture of Pride floor wax and Joy dishwashing liquid. For many years my pride and joy has been right there on my head. In junior high I didn't appreciate my hair. It was "frizzy" and needed to be straightened chemically with Curl-Free, and then physically, by a process called "wrapping."

The method was passed down by older female friends and relatives, like a folk custom. You needed long bobby pins and a clean, empty orange juice can with both ends removed. You would towel-dry your hair then comb out a section from the top of your head and wind it around the orange juice can, pinning it with the bobby pins. Then you would take the rest of your hair and wrap it around your head. The "theory"--yes, this process had a theory--was that the larger the roller you used, the straighter your hair would be.

Somewhere in my 20s, probably when Cher's hair-do changed from curtain-straight to curly, my hair turned from high maintenance to low. Instead of complaining about my hair, I became vain about it. I was proud, though I had no right to be, that curliness and "body" were things that others strove for and that I achieved effortlessly. Strangers would ask me what I ate to get such thick hair. Women grooming themselves in bathrooms have complimented me on my waves and curls. On the other hand, when a college friend of mine brought me to her parents' for Christmas dinner, her very WASPy mother looked at me carefully and said, Your hair scares me. My own mother has threatened, when I'm visiting her, to cut my hair in my sleep. My hair is what hers would look like if it were left to its own devices, which it isn't. Ever. L is always after me to cut it so he can see my face. So now he will.

February 25, 2007: The Cancer Card

I went to the alderman's office last week to buy a stack of parking permits. In Lakeview, visitors need to stick a bright blue permit in their dashboards in order to park legally, on most streets. When this first started, it was $1 for 15 permits, and they were undated. You could use them indefinitely (though each one only once) and you could buy two packs at a time.

Now it's $5 for 15, each good for 13 months, and you can buy them only in intervals. I said to the girl at the counter, I'm having surgery and expect a lot of people to come over, can I buy two packs? Her response was that they only sell one at a time. I said, I know, that's why I told you. She motioned to a woman next to her behind the counter who apparently whould have to give the green light. I then laid my card on the table: I have cancer. She remained impassive. The other woman remained busy with someone else. My customer-service gal relented; she said I could come back next week. Implying that she would pretend she didn't recognize me and I would be allowed to buy another stack even though I was supposed to wait longer between purchases.

My friend M says he's tried to use the HIV-positive card before. He said, It doesn't work that well, either.

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