Susan Who?

I’ve taken to wearing a scarf over my hair scalp peach fuzz lately, in an effort to be a little more put-together, and it’s mostly working.  Perhaps since it fits my head more tightly than the hats, though, I have had a few more unusual encounters with acquaintances about my hair in the past few days. 

Like the pharmacist who took my prescription last night and told me how good I’m looking.  We’ve made small talk over the past year, but not more than that.  I didn’t even know she knew I had cancer, but clearly she does, since she kept talking and telling me that it will all be okay, and that I will surely beat this.

Like the woman at chemo who complimented me on my scarf, just before I took it off and replaced it with my worn knit hat that keeps my head warm when I get the chills during my drip.  (The bolus of saline + all the prechemo drugs chill my right arm and make me cold all over as it runs into my veins.  I don’t know if maybe the benadryl gives me chills too, or if it’s just the temperature of the fluids, but every week, WonderDaddy has to cover me up with multiple blankets and tuck me in when the drip changes to benadryl.  Once he even covered my head because I was so cold.  I looked funny, but I felt great!)  Then we saw that a volunteer from had left several new knit hats there in the chemo ward for other patients, and we talked about that for a while.  (I love headhuggers — such a great idea and easy way to bolster cancer patient’s confidence and self-image!)

Like the Moms Club acquaintance from several years back who I ran into at the Fancy Preschool open house.  She didn’t recognize me a bit, and I felt some desparate need to jog her memory, to prove that I still am the same person I was when we met several years ago with our toddlers at the park, making small talk then, but talking more over the course of that cold winter, and then again sporadically through the summer of her divorce.  I provided details, asked about her daughter, told a “Remember when?” all to no avail.  Shamed, I stammered, “Well, I did have hair then,” and (wait for it) pulled out a photograph of me and the boys that I keep in my wallet.  It’s a casual photo of the four of us in red polo shirts, standing outside a local taco place with half-smiles and hugging each other.  It was taken the day of my diagnosis.  I’m not sure why that’s the one I keep in my wallet, in front of my driver’s license, where I see it every day, but I do.  It’s a bittersweet memory for me, the waiting, when we knew something was wrong but hoped against hope that it would be just an infection.  In the picture, the baby is grumpy, teething, and Widget is sleepy, cuddled against my shoulder as I hold him up for the camera.  WonderDaddy and I are smiling, but there is tension there, and wondering, and a bit of nerves.  But mostly we are happy in the picture, just fed, leaning in together, and confident in our strength as a family.  So I keep it, as the last one that we took together when I still felt — and looked — like myself.  I offered the photograph to this acquaintance as another mom looked on, somewhat bemused, and immediately felt the futility of it.  She didn’t know me.  But then I felt better.  She didn’t know me because she just didn’t remember me.  That’s fine. It’s not because of the hair.  It’s not because of the cancer.  Not everything has to be because of the cancer.

But the absurdity of providing photo I.D. to prove my identity was one of the more surreal moments in this cancer journey. 

And now, back to watching Samantha Who? on my it’s-not-TIVO, player!  I think I’m hooked.

7 Responses to Susan Who?

  1. canape says:

    It’s not always about the cancer.

    That is so important to remember. Mom had a pain in her abdomen recently, and of course our first thought was “cancer,” when really, she had just overdone it.

    You are so right to realize this.

  2. Emily says:

    Nice that it isn’t ALL about the cancer, huh?

  3. So many of your posts make me wish I knew you in person. Here’s another. xo

  4. mcgearstella says:

    I agree with sweetsalty, I wish I knew you as well.

    That must have been completely surreal!!

  5. kgirl says:

    I think pharmacists are part of that secret, silent army that know way more about people – about us – than we ever thought. Kind of comforting, unless you’re filling a prescription for foot fungus medicine or something.

  6. juliepippert says:

    Yes, could just be she is one who doesn’t recall people. I’m sure it was surreal but…well, I wonder, would it have been better if she magically recognized you from the photo? Anyway, LOL, glad it was HER, not the cancer. I agree with others and wish I knew you in that “come join us for a playdate and chat” way like I had with Kyla yesterday.

    Using My Words

  7. Scarves! I’m addicted. Now there’s a whole new array of fashion choices. Never go anywhere without one, preferably a different one each time. OK, OK it’s New England.

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