What Cancer Looks Like
It took nearly two weeks after my head was shaved for me to muster the courage to pose for this photo. Melissa Etheridge inspired me. She had just completed chemo for breast cancer and performed at the Grammys in February of 2005, baring her own bald head for the world to see. I thought she was beautiful and brave, so I followed her lead, displaying my most visible sign of cancer. My guys also lifted me up. My younger son, Danny, who wasn’t yet 2 and didn’t know anything was wrong, provided much-needed hugs and kisses. And one day Joey said: “Don’t worry, Mommy. You’re not going to die—it’s only a haircut.” He was right.
It may have been only a haircut, but I didn’t like it. So I bought wigs made of human hair. I topped them with hats and wore them every day. The straight wig in this photo reminded me of the person I knew before cancer. This was my goal: To look like nothing had changed, when in reality, life was spiraling out of my grasp. My mom helped me stay sane. She sat with me during chemo, cooked for my family, took the kids to school and played with them when I needed a nap. Much of my strength came from the kindness of others—like my friend Bev, who gave me a vase full of tulips, a group of moms who delivered a handmade quilt and another pal who left the inspirational book Love, Medicine & Miracles (Harper Perennial), by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D., on my doorstep.
Images: Jacki Donaldson