In January of 1983, I was walking down Commonwealth Avenue on the way to class. It was brutally cold. I was wearing my Navy peacoat, and on my head was, a Black fisherman’s cap. Not the most attractive look – actually quite mannish – But it was a cold morning, and just couldn’t deal with wearing my wig. So I made a choice. In the appearance conscious world of Boston University — I went Au Natrual! Not such a common look in the 19880’s. Prior to my illness, my choice of friends was not the socially conscious type. They were the “appearance conscious types”…and I am ashamed to admit that I was no better. It wasn’t until I had lost 20 lb. and my hair, that I realized how shallow and lame my viewpoint was.
I quickly learned that I was no longer welcome in my group of friends. It was a chilling lesson, like the winter Boston weather. As I walked to class that morning, walking towards me were two friends (I say loosely). R.F. and J.L. lived in Shelton Hall (Snob Central), just a few doors down from my dorm. So as I was heading towards the Management building, they were heading back towards their dorm room. I had already begun to feel the chill from my supposed friends, but this was the final freeze out. As they got within 5 ft I gave them a meek “hi”, smile, and wave. They turned to each other and R.F. said “Don’t look, thats the girl that’s dying.” I stopped dead in my tracks (no pun intended). I couldn’t believe it. Not only was I an outcast, but now I didn’t even get a name…just “That Girl”! And I was dying; which was certainly news to me! Well, it was an emotional day, but it taught me a lesson quick, and is a huge part of what drives me to always be positive. I believe my positive and hopeful outlook has a direct affect on how others treat me; and how I am able to stay positive day to day. I hoped I would never experience anything like that again. But I wasn’t so lucky.
I have been wearing hats a lot. I have this crunchy, straw cowboy that I love; which, honestly, my daughter hates it on me. But it is a mothers job to embarrass her child from time to time. Anyway, the other day I had to run an around in Scarsdale Village (a very affluent town and shopping area), and I chose to wear the hat (my daughter was not with me). It was lunchtime – a time when the town 1s flooded with high schoolers (decked out in their designer and school labels). As a group of 5 kids walked towards me (3 girls and 2 boys), one of the boys said to they others “Who does she think she is in that yokum hat, I would cringe if that was my mom.” And they all laughed. I stopped dead in my tracks…I had been here before. But the difference is who I am today versus who I was years ago! Slowly I turned…
The kids were standing on line outside of a popular deli. Their were plenty of kids around them, so I thought this is a good time for a teaching moment. I confronted the kids, and proudly said:
I am sorry, was your comment supposed to make me feel bad about myself? I think it had the opposite affect!” As I removed my hat, an audible gasp was heard from the girls. “You have you just insulted a women going through chemo therapy. Did insulting me make you feel like a big man, or better about yourself. Is it only my looks that caused you to try make me feel small about myself? Do you do that to kids in school that aren’t as good looking or as cool as you think you are? How do you feel about yourself now? Not so cool are ya? Maybe next time you will think about this before you pick on someone else!”
And with that I walked away. I was able to over hear 2 of the girls calling the boy a jerk, as they ran towards me to apologize. I believe (or I hope) at least they got the message. Like any good superhero I wanted to proudly put my hands on my hips and say “I think my job here is done!” But even for me that would just be to cheaky.
I do believe, that this is part of the reason I have started this blog…Even now, during my treatment, I believe being a cancer patient and survivor I have learned and grown so much as an individual. I am positive about that! In the end I am BETTER NOT BITTER. And rockin a groovy hat!
Hat’s off or today!