About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Incognito cancer patient

I'm undercover today.

It wasn't by design or anything.  I just didn't want to have to figure out what to wear on my head that would match with one of my few long sleeved shirts.  It was actually raining in San Diego today, and the chillier weather warranted something other than short sleeves that I've grown accustomed to.   I was running short on time, so I just put on my wig.  Just for good measure, I also strapped on the girls.  That is, the prosthetic breasts.  Or as I affectionately refer to them, my "foobies."

The wig is really super.  I catch glimpses in the mirror or in a window, and it really does look great.  Like I just stepped out of the hair salon.  And it doesn't go flat in a few minutes!  No bad hair days with wigs, that is for sure.

But it has been a strange day.

Jean-Marc and I went to our weekly mommy and me class, stopping at the library first. I was out and about, going about normal business looking "normal."  Not with a look that screamed "CANCER PATIENT!"  The other moms at the class had seen me in head scarves, so they knew.  I was even a little nervous about showing up in a wig when everyone knew anyway. But not everyone did.  One mom complimented me on my hairstyle.  She said, "I wish my hair would do that."  I almost said, "I wish mine did too!"  I wasn't sure of what to say, really.  Did she know?  Hadn't she noticed the scarves the weeks before?  Or even when we all openly talked about it after the first week or so, just to break the ice?  Maybe she wasn't there that day?  I just accepted the compliment with the "thanks."  When the second mom said something and asked me about the color, I came clean and told her it was a wig.  She asked me if I changed wigs a lot and I told her about the chemo, cancer, and all of that.  She was really sweet about it and we talked about the treatment and stuff.  Like others have said, she had no idea that I was going through of that, and how amazed she was that I was coming to these weekly classes,  and so on.   Again, that is all thanks to God's grace, definitely not my own strength.

I also went to Trader Joe's incognito.  The employees there are so friendly.  The lady checking me out was chatting as she scanned my groceries.  "Did you have a nice weekend?"  she asked me.  Hmm.  What to say. Do I really lay it on and say that I was resting after chemo?  Ha! Probably more than she bargained for with her small talk.  I just said that it was fine.  She asked if I had enjoyed our "light show" on Monday.  Like I mentioned before, we've been having weather in San Diego this week, and apparently she was referring to rain or some lightening on Monday.  I didn't know there was lightening, but then again, I was in the fog on Monday.  I just told her that I was hibernating with the cooler weather.  I don't need to give a reason.  Besides, then you get into the whole cancer conversation.  I'll pass.  Especially when I'm masquerading as a healthy person!

I realize how wrapped up in our own appearances we are.  For one, people who have seen me in cancer garb and see me in the wig don't always notice.  Some do.  But I'm surprised at how many don't. Not everyone is taken aback by the head scarves, I realize.  Although some are.  I've noticed people of all ages giving me sideways glances out in public.  But even for me, just looking normal today has been a total head trip, affecting how I act and feel.  It's interesting.  That's not to say when I'm wearing a scarf I feel bad.  Very often, I feel just fine.  Heck, some of my scarves are worth more than the wig! Something that I used to say in high school (to justify sometimes going around like a slob) was that everyone was too worried about the zit on their nose to notice yours.  I suppose that is true.  Appearances make a difference, even though they shouldn't.

On a slightly related topic, someone asked me today where I get my head scarves.  She has a friend who was just diagnosed with colon cancer and her hair had started falling out after chemo.  I thought I'd give a list of where I've gotten some of mine:

  • 4 Women: This is where I get my "beau beaus."  They are great because they slip on like a hat, but look like a tied scarf.  They come in lots of colors, patterns and fabrics too.  Each one comes with a matching scrunchie.  
  • France Luxe:  This is a pretty high end site with all kinds of hair and head accessories.  But they have a wonderful program called "Good Wishes" where they will give chemo patients a free head scarf.  The one they sent me retails at $72!  They are gorgeous, made of silk with crystals in the tails.  Lovely! 
  • TLC: This is the American Cancer Society's online catalog.  They have lots of  hats, scarves, bands, and hair loss items.  Things you never even thought that you might need....like night caps to catch hair that falls out at night.
  • Headcovers Unlimited: A lot like TLC.  They also have kits and templates to draw on eyebrows that come out.  
  • Your own collection?  I happen to have a lot of silk scarves, thanks to my husband and mother in law. I would get a Hermes or Louis Vuitton scarf on major holidays and Mother's Day.  It was my own personal "French Connection." A 30 inch square scarf can be tied into a turban pretty easily.   I've also found hats at Target and Marshall's.  Check out this video for tips on tying: 

I have a few more stops to make today.  I pick up Isabelle from her girl scout meeting very soon.  That should be fun...her leader is a breast cancer survivor and will like to see my wig.  Then I have to take Olivier to karate.  I've been there 2 other times in the last week, but wearing a scarf or a hat.  Today, I'll go incognito. 

1 comment:

  1. That is a wierd feeling. I remember when I'd have people ask, "did you get a hair cut?" Most of the time, I'd say "yes" (that's it a hair cut from Chemo!) Did I really want to explain the whole "breast cancer" thing? I also struggled with, did I really want to burden someone with my Breast Cancer?