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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bald and Beautiful

I found myself among a group of cancer patients the other day, waiting for their radiation treatment. The environment was just perfect. Deep, comfy armchairs, discreetly lit giant fish tanks, juice and salty crackers on coffee tables, all in the most perfect temperature (not too hot, not too cold).

While there was a big screen TV mounted to the wall, nobody paid any attention to it. Most of the people were reading, doing a crossword puzzle, or talking to a companion.

A short distance away from me were two women, one wearing a baseball cap, presumably to hide her bald head. She had a rather teary conversation with the woman next to her. She wasn’t talking and then crying, she was doing both at the same time. Nobody listened openly, but I think everyone felt sorry for her. She projected such misery. Her conversation partner didn’t say much other than “I’m so sorry,” and “I wish I could help.”

More patients came and went, some men, some women, some looking normal, others wearing a scarf or a baseball cap after chemo treatment. One or two were in a wheelchair, others walked but looked so down they were obviously having a rough time.

The room was getting downright depressing when in came a woman, I guessed her to be in her late 30s early 40s, sporting sunglasses on her bald head.

She walked purposefully, with a bounce in her step, and a smile on her face that lit up the room. While I know it’s not polite to stare at someone, I found myself doing just that, fascinated by this woman. She positively radiated joy and a zest for life. I admired her. While most women hid their baldness under scarves, caps or wigs, she obviously had no problem with her hairless appearance. And it suited her. She was the embodiment of bald and beautiful.

With a variety of chairs to choose from, she positioned herself opposite the teary woman and started speaking to her. She said how much she admired her, how she faithfully read the blog the woman was writing and how much support it had given her. She didn’t speak in hushed tones, neither did she shout, but her clear voice carried all through the room.
I doubted very much that this woman needed support. She didn’t look like the kind who needed cheering up, but it worked. Within no time the woman dried her tears, put her tissue away and was visibly feeling better.

Not only that, those who had been talking quietly were listening, those who had been struggling with a crossword puzzle had their pens hovering over the paper, and those who had been reading had their book or Kindle in their lap.
I guess we were all thinking the same thing … what an amazing woman!

When the radiation technician came for her, she rose from her chair, wished her conversation partner all the best, bestowed a glowing smile on the technician and disappeared from the room.

I took away two things … being bald doesn’t have to be embarrassing and while sympathy is fine, expressing admiration is often more effective than feeling sorry for someone.

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