Hair Apparent

, , , , , | | Hopeless | July 16, 2019

(When I am 24 I notice I am losing weight quite rapidly. I’m a six-foot-tall man and was around 250 pounds with shoulder-length hair. I am at 225 when I go to the doctor about my weight loss. After the blood tests, I am diagnosed with a form of leukemia that is treatable without chemo. I still need to go to an oncologist every few months just to make sure everything is going the way it should be. On my third visit to my oncologist, I am back to my original weight. I’ve seen several patients in the waiting room who have been going through chemo. Everyone else there is going through treatments for more severe forms of cancer and dealing with the effects. I am gaining weight with no side effects from my medication, and have kept my long hair. I can’t help but feel bad, like everyone is thinking I’m not the patient. One day, a woman who is around her mid-30s strikes up a conversation with me. She’s skinny, pale, and wearing a bandanna.)

Woman: “I love your hair.”

Me: “Thank you; I try to take care of it.”

Woman: “So, are you waiting for someone?”

Me: *already feeling my face turning red* “Actually, I’m a patient.”

Woman: “Oh, I’m sorry. Have you just started treatment?”

Me: “No, it’s actually been almost a year. I don’t need chemo; I just come in here so [Doctor] can review my blood tests and make sure my blood count is normal.”

(The woman’s eyes begin to well with tears. I’m feeling really bad, so I start to apologize.)

Me: “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Woman: *raising her hand to shush me* “No, don’t apologize. I’m sorry for making you think that. I’m just glad to see that not everyone has to suffer with such a diagnosis.” *pulls out her phone and shows me some photos* “This was what my hair looked like before my diagnosis.”

(She had long black hair that went down to her hips.)

Woman: “I actually had it all cut off before my treatment and donated it to [Charity that doesn’t charge for wigs]. I was a stylist and loved helping people take care of their hair. Don’t feel bad because you still have your hair; a lot of us actually love it when people don’t have to compromise their health even more.”

(I thanked her for helping me not feel uncomfortable anymore. As we were finishing our conversation, a man and a boy come in and sat next to her — her husband and son. We chatted about how the boy was about to start youth football and how I coached one of the teams. He ended up on my team and we became really good friends. She even invited me and my girlfriend to her cancer-free party.)

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