The most awkward part of my new look is having to respond when other people comment on it. In the past week alone, at least a dozen strangers have told me that they like my haircut. I have to decide pretty quickly if I am just going to smile and say thank you or if I want to explain the backstory of my short hair. I have responded in both ways depending on how much time I want to devote to a conversation with a stranger. It is nice that my hair has grown enough that it looks intentional, but it has made me think about times where I may have made comments to others that could have been insensitive to something that they were going through.
I was put to the test this week when the mom of a former student, who obviously does not know that I have cancer, pointed out that my hair is short only to say that she, “liked it better before.” I could have snapped something like, “Well I just went through 14 rounds of chemotherapy and didn’t really have much choice” and gloated at her embarrassment, but what is the purpose in that? She OBVIOUSLY does not have any clue about the reason for my short hair.
I have learned that it is in my best interest to assume that everyone has only good intentions. When people ask about my diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, hair style etc. there are so many opportunities for people to say the wrong thing. (And let’s be honest, what I think is right or wrong changes depending on my mood.) It is important for my own mental health to assume that every comment is coming from a good place. I cannot control what other people say, but I can control how I choose to let it make me feel. Throughout all of this, there have been so many situations where someone else’s words could have taken me to a dark place. Most of the time, I am able to take my own advice and not let other people’s words have an effect on me, sometimes I am not as strong as I would like to be and that is okay.
I encourage everyone to ask me anything and I am always willing to share every unpleasant detail about what I am going through. With that, I open myself up to having conversations that may be upsetting and uncomfortable. I have chosen to be extremely open about everything that I am going through because I hope that it will encourage others to be proactive about their health and to show others who are in my situation that dealing with cancer doesn’t mean that your normal life has to stop. With the exception of an errant rude remark, it has served me well to believe that every question or comment is coming from a place of positivity, curiosity, and support. The best comment I’ve heard is that I’ll make a great Eleven from Stranger Things on Halloween 🙂