The longest walk

So last week I went out to the mall.  That’s right.  To the mall.  I took three big excursions last week, actually.  Widget and I went to Target with Grandma on Thursday.  Little Bear and I went to Land’s End on Friday.  But first, I went to the mall, by myself, after yoga.  It was a risk for me in several ways:

  1. I was alone.
  2. I would have to save enough energy to drive home.
  3. I had already been to yoga, which alone should have tired me out.

But I went to yoga, was feeling strong and empowered, and remembered what my oncologist had told me when I started treatment, “Don’t try to conserve your energy.  It doesn’t work like that.  If you’ve got it, use it.”

Now, in physics, this isn’t exactly true.  Conservation of energy isn’t just a good idea — it’s the law.  Lame physics jokes aside, if you have energy stored up, you can keep it for later, or you can use it, converting it to kinetic energy.  But in life, biology, my case, with cancer, if I don’t use it today, there’s no guarantee that it will be there for me to use tomorrow.  My body is using everything it can find to fight the cancer, leaving very little left over.

So this week I tried to use it.

I successfully navigated the first store, Macy’s, but didn’t find what I needed (does NO one carry Dockers anymore?  Or are they as out-of-date as Garanimals?).  Venturing out of the store and into the mall for the first time since well before my diagnosis (I had a baby, remember?  And before that, 7 months of bed rest?  And before that, a toddler just learning to walk and run, giggling, through the stores?), I looked out into the brightly lit suburban mall, and … panicked.

It was too far.  Too much.  Too many stores.  I would have to walk all the way across the mall to get to the other anchor store, and there were all these new ones in between.  New ones with names and clothes I didn’t even recognize.  New ones where a sweater marked “L” really meant “XS.”  New ones … without benches or places to sit in between.  If I were to head to the other anchor store, I would have to commit to going all the way across the mall.  By myself.

I didn’t know if I could do it.

But I had to try.  So I did it.  First one foot, and then the other, I walked to the first store.  Then the second.  Then I stopped and rested at the front of the third, pretending to look at something I knew would never fit.  I’ll spare you the rest of the journey, but what I want to say — what I need to say — is that I made it.  I was pretty tired, and very tired of the sideways glances and outright stares that my bald head and I got, but I made it.

All the way to the store on the horizon.

When I got there I was reminded of the goodness of human nature.  I asked a sales clerk if I could use the phone at her checkout counter.  While she shook her head in confusion, an incredibly nice 20-something guy walked over and gave me his iPhone.  His iPhone.  I kid you not.  He had to show me how to use it.  Yes, I’m that high-tech these days.  Then he walked back to his station, asking only that I return it to the other clerk when I was done with my call. 

Seriously?  Seriously.

So I called home to check on the boys, left a message, and then turned to give it back to the female clerk… who had disappeared in the meantime.  Not speaking much English, she apparently didn’t hear or understand that she was to take the phone back.  And the man who lent it to me?  Gone.

So here I am, in the middle of the store, bald, confused, tired, and with someone else’s iPhone entrusted to me.

Wild, huh?

Reminded of the kindness of strangers, I went to track him down.


And I forgot all about the looks and stares that the other passerby had sent my way that day.


37 Responses to The longest walk

  1. NoRegrets says:

    yay! The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing. I like to try and be kind to a stranger as much as I can, like waving to the guy trying to sell newspapers on the corner… It’s also a verification of your existence. 🙂
    BTW, JC Penny carries Dockers I think. Either that or Sears. You could always check online before you go…

  2. ohgrammy says:

    Giant steps. Way to go!

  3. clifford says:

    I’m just impressed that you gave back the iPhone. Now that’s character, YM. 😀

  4. Lynn in GA says:

    YEAH! You did it! And got to try out an iPhone to boot! What a deal! He really made up for the other “customer no-service” lady. Your bald head is beautiful! I definitely wouldn’t take the time to cover it up. If other people want to stare, so be it. I’ve learned after having twins and hearing comments (“holy s***, can you imagine?”, “were you on fertility treatments”-yes people actually DO ask about your reproductive status) and facing many stares that the public can be VERY rude at times. Didn’t anyone else’s mom teach them “don’t stare, it’s rude”, or “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? I hope you find your Dockers. I’d look online, too!

  5. Linda L. says:

    Congratulations! You did it!


  6. Way to go, WM! I’m extremely impressed. I haven’t been to the mall for two years now, I hate it that much.

    And baby, do you ever have the head shape to carry off bald. My head? It’s all lumpy, and bumpy, and misshapen. But you’ve got it going on!

  7. You are awesome, Whymommy. Just awesome.

    It takes some kind of inner strength to do all that you did last week. I hope you feel proud, as well as the pride that we all have in you!!

    Did you find the owner of the iphone without too much trouble? I’m sure you let him know how much his kindness and trust meant to you. Your appreciation will make him want to “do good” for MORE people, and that’s what life is REALLY all about!!

    The stares of strangers are hard to take, aren’t they? When my second child was an infant, she had surgery to remove a tumour from the area just beside (and in behind) her eye. She recuperated like a champ, and I tried to return to some sense of a normal life as soon as she was well enough. The stares of strangers when they saw her dressing, and then her scar, felt menacing to me. Some people were downright invasive and rude (one woman rushed up to us in the mall, and screeched, “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOUR BABY??!!” I had to fight every, single natural urge I had, and explained our situation… She was deeply and rightfully apologetic and embarassed).

    It was a really hard time, but I tried to remember that MOST people are kind and sympathetic… And, it is so difficult in this day and age to approach a stranger in a public place, ask questions, and offer help.

    You gave that young man a gift by ASKING for help, and then accepting his assistance. I’ll bet he carried that good feeling with him for the rest of the day!!

    Love to you, as always. xo CGF

  8. Kristin says:

    Way to go! The mall intimidates me. And that’s on a good day.

  9. Carrie says:

    You go girl! You go!

    And yes, the mall is an intimidating place for any mom with two little ones – cancer or not. So you are definitely my hero for getting through it!

  10. Anna says:

    Go mommy go!
    I would be so intimidated with a mall trip, I don’t even know what stores I belong in any more!

  11. PunditMom says:

    Today Macy’s, tomorrow — Bloomingdale’s!

  12. practiceliving says:

    Malls are so overwhelming these days – too many choices!

    This post, and your post about the great gifts, have made my heart soar. I am continually amazed at and refreshed by the goodness of people.

  13. BetteJo says:

    I hate hate hate the mall. Crowds. Lots of people. Did I mention crowds?
    Good for you!

  14. Lazy Boy says:

    “But I went to yoga, was feeling strong and empowered, and remembered what my oncologist had told me when I started treatment, “Don’t try to conserve your energy. It doesn’t work like that. If you’ve got it, use it.” – That sounds great!

  15. What the? How did you get such a good looking head?! I am in complete agreement with slouching mom.

  16. twithhoney says:

    You encountered someone nice enough to hand you their iPhone… at the mall? Wow! That’s a rare find indeed. Probably as hard as finding good jeans that fit and will last for more than one season.

    Plus you did yoga and walked the mall in the same day. Hope you have lots more days like that!

  17. Stimey says:

    You’re superhuman, WhyMommy. Way to go.

    And you’re looking truly beautiful these days, in person and in photo.

  18. Susan K says:


    Much as I hate to say it. They have Dockers.

    Just don’t bother looking for pleats. Apparently NO ONE (but me) wants to wear pleated fronts on their pants anymore. Sigh.

    CONGRATS, by the way, on your Odyssey. And bless the man with the iPhone. (of course, we Apple/Mac users KNOW that true Apple folks are all wonderful. Right?? 🙂

  19. christine says:

    you know you are so beautiful,bald head and all!

    thank goodness for that kind man.

  20. jtcosby says:

    I am so glad you got to see the heart of someone real. You are beautiful!! Absolutely beautiful!! Hugs and prayers, Tamara

  21. funkcoaster says:

    Way to go! You go girl. That’s absolutely wonderful that you made it all the way. You have such strength & I know you’ll make it all the way through all of this.

  22. amanda says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that you unearthed, just by being you, the diamond in the rough, the unmistakable glimmer of goodness amidst florescent lighting and pixie-size club wear. I am so grateful you are here and fighting. You really make the world better.

  23. rimarama says:

    I am totally rooting for you, Whymommy! You are awesome, and you’re right, the XS is the new L. Very demoralizing. But you – you are an inspiration!

  24. E :) says:

    You look gorgeous. And, yay for the sales guy with the iPhone!

  25. WorksForMom says:

    WhyMommy, has anyone told you how awesome you are in the last hour?

    You are awesome.

  26. canape says:

    Dude. I love you.

    Let us not speak of Dockers again.

    Do I need to drive up there?

  27. deb says:

    Even with a bald head you look lovely and that was a kind thing for that young man to do.

  28. Did you have your cape on??

    I’m incredibly impressed. You and your journey are so inspiring.

  29. Actually, you have a beautifully shaped, smart head. It’s our culture’s distorted idea of beauty and aesthetics that’s the problem. I had a friend in graduate school who had lost all her hair to Alopecia — it would never grown back. So she always wore a wig. But she admitted to me that in fact she thought she was more beautiful bald, an ethereal kind of beauty. Baby’s have bald heads and we all love those. We have to change how we see. If more chemo-heads had the courage not to wear wigs or hats…but it takes courage enough just to battle cancer. Can’t bystanders see that?

  30. Katherine says:

    Just thought I’d stop by and say I’ve been thinking about you. You’re in my prayers.

  31. Ally says:

    Surviving a trek to the mall, even while you’re not doing battle with cancer, is post-worthy. That you did it whilst battling cancer, now that’s nothing short of miraculous! Oh the mall, how I hate thee…

    But to get to use an iphone? Cool!

  32. Emily says:

    My husband would be so jealous that you got to use an iphone. I am just impressed by your bravery.

  33. Chantel says:

    I read about you in Parents Magazine and this is the first time I have ever sent a message to someone on the email, but I felt strongly that I just had to do it. My mother has been diagnosed twice with breast cancer – the first time at 34 years old & the second time at 60 years old. I was only 6 years old the first time she was diagnosed. I know you are a young mother, just as my mom was. She survived both times and I just KNOW you will get through this also. Treatment has come so far now-a-days & with the support of your family and friends, and your faith in God, I just know you will get through this hurdle.

  34. Your oldest friend, Adam says:

    Having seen lots of pictures of you over the years, I can understand why they would stare. Who wouldn’t stare at a smile like that! It knows something they don’t know.

    And this has go to be the second cutest picture I’ve ever seen of you. The first is of you when you were holding your new brother.

  35. motherofbun says:

    Am so happy and excited for you. I know this is so 90’s but YOU GO GIRL! 🙂

  36. LawyerMama says:


    By the way, you look beautiful bald.

  37. […] don’t shop sales.  I don’t stop and pick up a little something for them when I’m at the mall (what mall?) or Target.  I don’t panic when the weather changes and they have nothing in the […]

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