Thursday, March 22, 2012
The Bald and the Beautiful
I have a deep and intimate relationship with cancer. I wish I was admitting to having a deep and intimate relationship with Robert Downey, Jr., but that isn't the hand life dealt me. Unfortunately, my parents were both ravaged by this ugly disease. I was given a front row ticket to be a witness as my mom and dad bravely faced this monster in a battle to the death. Neither of them stood a chance. By the time each discovered their cancer, it had already riddled their bodies beyond repair, beyond any hope of recovery. My father lived six months after his melanoma was found. My mother, a victim of renal cell carcinoma, lived only two and half painful, agonizing months.
When you watch a loved one suffer and die, it changes who you are. I will forever feel like cancer took away a chunk of me as I watched them lower my mama into the ground. It left a raw, open, vulnerable wound that won't ever heal. It also made me fearful. Every twinge, every sore throat, every unexplained symptom is cancer. I live daily in terror that it will get me, too. I've seen what it can do, and I wonder if I'm strong enough to kick it if it ever finds me.
Even though I quietly donate money regularly directly to the hospice house that took care of my mother and restored her right to die with dignity, I'm not a champion of charities. There are a handful that are meaningful to me, and I do my best to support them. It's not my style to be a cheerleader. I'm more the Booster Club member who donates money so the marching band can get new hats. There is one organization that has become special to me, though, and I am stepping out of my comfort zone to scream and jump around with pom poms over what they're doing this weekend.
I spent the entire month of September 2011 smiling, weeping and dreading what was to come as I read the story of a precious little girl named Donna. You see, it's heartbreaking enough when an adult is faced with fighting cancer, but it's unthinkable that a child should ever have to look into the eyes of this demon. I can't remember how I came across Donna's story, but her mother put their fight into words that touched me deeply. I couldn't get her out of my mind, this little girl whom I would never meet. I took those feelings that were still brewing over the loss of my own parents and imagined what it would be like if it were my daughter instead.
Donna's parents set up a charity in her name, Donna's Good Things. (I dare you to click on the link and not smile when you see her beautiful face.) This weekend in Chicago, Donna's charity and the St. Baldrick's Foundation are hosting an event to raise money for cancer research. So, what makes this so different? The participants have not only signed up to raise money for the cause, but they are also SHAVING THEIR HEADS. That's right. Folks who have never even met Donna or her family have pledged not only their time and dollars but also their hair. Would you go bald to honor the memory of a child you have never met? I am in awe of their commitment.
I'm proud to say that three of my blogger friends created a team and are shaving their heads for Donna's Good Things. Deb from The Monster in Your Closet, Chris over at From the Bungalow, and Karin from Pinwheels and Poppies are doing the deed this weekend. Oh, and as a bonus, my favorite fellow spaz, Katy, from I Want A Dumpster Baby will be there to keep everyone smiling as their locks are falling to the floor. It's not too late to donate if you are so inclined. I did, and it was completely painless.
I know that no amount of money raised or research conducted will bring back my parents or anyone else who lost the fight with cancer, but if one child is saved, it's worth it to me. For that reason alone, I choose hope.