<editorsnote> Nerds, meet my buddy Serena. She was one of my only friends growing up as we were play buddies at the lake in NH and I found out via Facebook while I was en route to a conference that Serena has cancer. She is here today to talk about her side of things and the journey this disease is taking her on. I only have one more thing left to say … HIT IT SERENA!! </editorsnote>
#TalkNerdyToMeLover’s Serena Neff
“I like your haircut.”
I’ve gotten that a few times from acquaintances and guests who don’t know the whole story behind my “haircut.”
What to say? Usually, I just say thanks; but simultaneously, a flood of silly-non-grumpy snarky comments come through my head (because, you know, that’s the way my brain works!).
“Thanks… cancer did it.”
“Can’t wait for it to grow back.”
“I had no choice!”
“Oh, yeah, I went Britney crazy. Shaved it all off. Can I order a smoothie?”
“Thanks! My stylists are Cancer and Chemo.”
There’s always a little one second delay as these responses float through my mind. And then I smile, and go with the simple, “thanks.” Because these are people who don’t know me as a cancer survivor and sometimes that kind of anonymity is nice. They may see my tattoo later and put it all together or hear a wisp of conversation about it but for that moment when they see my hair, they just think I woke up one day and said, “to hell with long hair! Too much maintenance!” And that I willingly chopped it all off.
People that see me intermittently are amazed and excited when they see my hair growing in. I can almost hear the, “phew, she’s not sick anymore” go through their minds. Like, woohoo, close call but we’re in the clear now. These people have wonderful big smiles on their faces.
The people that see me frequently can’t even remember that I once had long hair! The absence and subsequent growth is so every day that it’s just part of life. I’ve had a few folks tell me they saw pictures on Facebook of long hair (just a few months ago, that was!) and they didn’t recognize me! The short spunky no fuss hair matches the don’t mess with me attitude, for now. My hair will continue to grow in–and I will continue to let it, and not cut it–and the personality will continue to fit. And pretty soon (well, more like in a few years since my hair grows so slow) it will look just as before. And cancer will be a distant memory…
I am still on chemo every three weeks until August and then I hope to get my port out. This chemo is a breeze–no side effects and it only takes an hour at the oncologist!
I started the oral medication Tamoxifen that I will likely take every day for five years and I am happy to report that side effects are minimal! The night sweats slash hot flashes and insomnia are no where near as bad as they were with the chemo drug Taxol. THANK GOD!
I’m in smooth sailing territory and as the Doctors report, I’m cured. Cool. I like that sound of that.
I feel like I have lived a lifetime in the last ten months; that diagnosis in March feels like it happened twenty years ago. My, how time flies.
I am back to work full time and feeling good. I’m back to being busy while still getting massages and pedicures, playing with the dog, reading, hiking, snorkeling and playing with friends.
I see hundreds of people a day come out on the boats and through the programs I teach as a whale and environmental naturalist guide. And I have seen and continue to see every kind of personality combination and then some. I look at people a little differently now; I’ve always been empathetic and intuitively perceptive towards peoples’ needs (I even got high scores in the “caring” category during annual reviews at my work!) but now I look at these people and take a moment to remember that there is so much more depth to what that person and each of us experience in life. For the moment I interact with them, it may just be such a small moment. But life it a culmination of all those small moments.
And as Ellen says, be kind to one another.
click here to check out Serena’s blog. Very powerful stuff.