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Hollye Harrington Jacobs

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Lose Your Hair From Chemo, Get Scarf Stares

Posted: 07/27/11 06:05 PM ET

I've come to accept my bald head. While I'm don't exactly feel like "Bald is Beautiful" on me, I feel like "Bald ain't so bad."

Every time something is taken away from me (my breasts, my hair, my dignity), I am more grateful for what I still do have, like a positive attitude. That is something that can never be taken away from me (Silver Lining!).

Even though I have a wig that is made out of real hair, feels lightweight and fairly attractive, it is still uncomfortable and itchy. I find that I really only want to wear it for short periods of time (like when I take my daughter to school or when I go out on the rare evening). Scarves are simply much more comfortable.

I have invested in some really chic cotton ones that tie easily, don't slip and are very lightweight (Silver Lining). After playing around with them and finding my "look," I was feeling pretty good.

What have unexpectedly descended are "The Scarf Stares." Whoa. They came out of nowhere and, I've found, are a significant part of the oncology culture.

The first time I felt the impact of being a direct recipient of The Scarf Stares, I was feeling pretty put together in my Hermes scarf, sparkly earrings and coordinating outfit.

I had to go get my blood drawn before my chemotherapy infusion. While in the waiting room, a woman (who had to be in her mid-60′s) was sitting across from me, staring. Blatantly staring. Right at me. She made absolutely no attempt to divert her stare. Finally, it was so outrageously rude that I just had to call her out.

"Can I help you with something, ma'am?" I asked.
She looked horrified. "N-n-n-no," she said.
"Why are you staring at me, then?"
"I don't know," she said.
"Well, if you want to talk about something, please do let me know," I said.

I felt as if she really should have known better. However, I'm now all-too-aware that most people don't, in fact, know better.

I was in the chemo clinic the other day getting fluids (one of the five days last week that I received IV hydration because of my rampant nausea and vomiting) and a young woman came in with her mother. I overheard the thirty-something say that she was there for her Neulesta shot. Another young woman with cancer. F-bomb.

She had a full head of hair, leading me to believe that she had just had her first round of chemo (I hope it went better for her than it did for me!).

I was sitting in my treatment chair and when I looked up, both mother and daughter were staring right at me. I smiled. I understood why they were staring. This was so unlike the previous situation. In this circumstance, I had complete empathy, knowing that they were staring because the young woman knew that she would soon be in the same situation (i.e. bald). I really wanted to get up and go over to her and say, "It will be ok. It's not so bad. You can do this."

I was unable to do so because I was tethered to my IV. However, I hope that my smile conveyed what I was feeling.

I've come to acknowledge the fact that there will simply be a whole lot of staring for the next few months. Most of the time, the stares are filled with sympathy. They really don't make me feel any better, but I know it's not about me. Seeing me may remind them of a friend or loved one with cancer. Seeing me may just make them sad that there is so much cancer in the world. I don't really know. I just keep my head high and go on about my day.

However, when someone is overtly staring for a prolonged period of time, I always ask if I can help with something, which usually elicits a "caught in the cookie jar" reaction. Oops!

Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left.
~Hubert Humphrey

To read more about Hollye's holistic and humorous journey over, around, above and below breast cancer, please visit her blog, Brookside Buzz (www.brooksidebuzz.com). You may email her at hollye@brooksidebuzz.com.

 

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