21. Unexpected Presents

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Unexpected Presents

Life is short, so live it. Love is rare, so grab it. Fear controls you, so face it. Memories are precious, so cherish them. We only get one life, so live it!

~Author Unknown

When I woke from anesthesia after surgery to remove a seemingly benign ovarian cyst, I received some unexpected and unpleasant news. My doctor told me that I had cancer. The dreaded “C word!” And worse yet, ovarian cancer, also known as “the silent killer.”

Questions and emotions overwhelmed me. Was I going to live? What was going to happen next? How would I tell my loved ones? Would I lose my hair?

From thereon out, it was a whirlwind. Everything happened so quickly. Chemotherapy began two weeks after my diagnosis. I learned that on days fourteen through seventeen of my chemotherapy treatments, my hair would start falling out in clumps. I was a newlywed of only six months. How would my husband feel about a pale, puffy-faced bald wife with scars, nausea and all the other dreaded potential side effects of my upcoming journey? How would I retain the strength, confidence and charisma that attracted him to me? Should I offer him a pass? After all, he certainly did not sign up for this.

I was terrified and felt powerless and alone. How could I regain my balance? Rather than watching my hair fall out day after day, I decided to take control. On the fourteenth day, I checked into a fabulous oceanfront hotel, outfitted with an assortment of wigs and champagne. My beautiful daughter and my closest girlfriends met me there with scissors and Wahl Shaver in hand to have a Head Shaving Party. I always love a party and this certainly was an original theme.

Truthfully, I could not bear to see the shocked, fearful looks on their faces one by one when seeing me bald for the first time. Instead, I wanted to have them be a part of creating my “new look.” We laughed and cried as each of them took turns cutting and shaving my head. We shared an intimacy that most people never share. It was one of the most profound, memorable days of my life. I stood before them more vulnerable and exposed than I had ever felt before. I stood on the balcony feeling the wind on my naked scalp while stealing a glance at my reflection in the window. To my surprise, it was liberating! Instead of feeling weak and insecure, I felt an inner beauty and unstoppable strength and courage! We all knew that this could happen to any of us.

I changed that day. I bared my head and my soul to them. I realized that none of us really knows what our future holds. All that is certain is now. So I mustn’t spend my time fretting or wallowing in my circumstances. I must spend it celebrating the love, friendship, beauty and joy that surround me. I chose to live fully each day, with or without hair.

~Debbi Singer

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