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Sunday, May 12, 2013

"I was 17 and Worried about My Hair ... I Had an Inoperable Brain Tumor." Guest Blog Post by Anonymous

MRI image of a brain tumor. Source

At seventeen the greatest of my worries should have been finding a prom date, choosing the right car, going to concerts and meeting new people and living life to the fullest. I worried about my hair instead. At seventeen, my doctor discovered an inoperable tumor in my brainstem, but I didn't care. My only concern was, "Is my hair going to fall out?" I could handle being ill because it was something I was very familiar with. However, the thought of my hair leaving my scalp was terrifying.

The nightmares began soon after I received this horrible news. I would wake up in the middle of the night with my oversized Lady Gaga t-shirt clinging to my body and reach frantically for my dark strands and pray that they were still connected to my head. They always were, but I always had trouble falling back sleep with two fistfuls of thick black curls. Eventually, the tumor took its course and I still couldn't shake away the fears. Several therapists and a few bottles of Xanax couldn't stop the panic-attack-filled dreams.

So, I cut it off.

The stylist was in disbelief. "Are you crazy?" she asked. "You want me to just cut it off?" I closed my eyes as she tied it all behind my neck in a thick elastic and began sawing off the precious locks. When it was all over and my hair was in a giant plastic bag labeled "Locks of Love," my nightmares left. I confronted that fear by severing it off and donating it to a girl who wasn't as lucky as I was. 

On the first day of the semester, I ask students to provide me with a writing sample.

These writing samples are written by hand, with pen and paper, not computers, and without any preparation. Students usually spend about fifteen minutes on these writing samples.

Reading these writing samples is one of the most moving things I do all semester. Students always surprise me. When I read these writing samples, so full of hope, vulnerability, self-examination and good intentions, I always think, if everyone knew what was going on in the invisible mind and heart of their neighbor, we would all be less cynical, and more gentle.

I've been asking for prayer here for my sister Antoinette. You can read those posts here and here.

I mentioned to the former student who wrote the above first-day writing sample that my sister has received a scary medical diagnosis.

My former student immediately wrote back to remind me of her first day writing sample, in which she had talked about a brain tumor. I save these writing samples and I went back and found it and reread it.

It's an amazing piece of writing. She wrote this spontaneously, on the first day of class, with a black ballpoint pen on a piece of theme paper.

There's so much in this brief essay. The love of beauty that sometimes surpasses the love of biological existence. The confrontation with fear. The defiant, generous sacrifice of her prized hair as a gift to kids who lost their hair to health problems like cancer.

My student wrote to me, "I know I'm a stranger to your sister, but if she wants someone to talk to about the situation that can relate to it, then I'd love to help in any way I can."

I am more touched by my former student's courage and generosity than I can say.

The charity to which my student donated her hair is "Locks of Love." Locks of Love provides hairpieces to children who have lost their hair to health problems.

The Locks of Love website is here.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! Its a good thing that someone brought this up.
    Well done with the post.