breast cancer, “reaching out”

A disease that has touched so many people, both victims and loved ones alike, breast cancer is like a magnet for human kindness. Family, friends, colleagues, women from all walks of life, have come face to face with an “enemy” that alters the world they knew, both those who survive and those who eventually succumb. And all who share their world are debilitated as well. So it is no wonder that these loved ones should lend their support in whatever way possible.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation is possibly the largest, most visible vehicle  affording everyone an opportunity to donate to the fight against breast cancer. On our Mediterranean cruise this summer, I had occasion to witness Holland America Line’s efforts on behalf of the Foundation. Begun in 2007, every one of the Line’s cruises, 500 in all, conducts a 5K deck walk for all interested passengers. The entrance fee of $15 includes a t-shirt and a wrist band, both sporting the Susan G. Komen logo,  as well as an invitation to a Pink Lemonade Party after the event. The proceeds are donated to the cause. Although recurring tendonitis in my ankle kept me from the walk, I made the donation and along with other bystanders, cheered on the walkers. It was a festive, and worthwhile, occasion. Congrats to Holland America Lines, a corporation that cares. Many others have also joined the fight. Kudos to all of them!

My English friend recently learned that a beloved friend of hers since their younger years in the UK, discovered she had breast cancer. In her late 60’s or early 70’s, it was a shock. Three weeks after learning of it, surgery was done, and she is now preparing for chemotherapy. My friend, an avid knitter, quickly made a “prayer shawl,” and mailed it to Catherine, who is now never without it.

Not as large as an afghan, the shawl falls below the waist, wrapping about the shoulders. I can imagine the comfort it’s giving both friends, who feel connected by a tangible form of their mutual love for one another. I’ve asked my friend to teach my daughter and I how to replicate the shawl so that we might donate them to women in need of our comfort, and prayers. I was unable to pick up the intricacies of the craft when I attempted to learn before, but maybe this time my daughter will “get it” and help me. If all else fails, I might have to purchase the yarn and have my friend’s nimble fingers work their magic. Wish me luck!

A Wall Street Journal article, “How Hope Travels With a Wig,” mentions the saga of a “traveling” wig. Its most recent trip was to the home of 40-year-old Alicia Gaudio. A couple of weeks ago, the Mt. Kisco, N.Y attorney learned she had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy this past week, and will soon be undergoing chemotherapy. Considered a talisman for cancer survivors who have worn the wig over the course of the last 4 years, Ms. Gaudio, her husband and 2 young children, are hoping she will be returned to good health, like the women who have worn it before her.

“The gift–a stylish brown wig…will be delivered by Nicole Rowe, who wore it after she lost her own hair during breast-cancer treatment last year. ‘We call this the healing wig,’ Ms. Rowe, an optician, plans to tell Ms. Gaudio.” The owner of the wig, Vanessa Pacella, a psychotherapist in Wellington, Florida, paid $5,000 for it after she was diagnosed with the disease.  ” ‘When you wear this wig and look in the mirror, you see yourself as a healthy person…There’s a lot to be said for positive energy.’ ” Others who have worn the wig were all friends of Ms. Pacella’s, themselves cancer survivors.

Researchers have found that human beings through thousands of years of civilization, have assigned “mystical possibilities in amulets and talismans,” especially in times of crises.  ” ‘It’s not voodoo,’ says Barbara Stoberock, a researcher at the University of Cologne in Germany. ‘It can be explained. If you have a lucky charm, and believe it helps you, there’s a psychological mechanism. It lifts your beliefs in your own capabilities, and gives you a boost.'”

Jeffrey Zaslow, who wrote the article, explains that the wig can serve as a compass for the women who wear it, giving them a sense of direction when they feel lost. Knowing that others who have worn it and survived, can give those still in the trenches, their bearings once again. For those who have gone before, the wig has offered “a shared strength, and a path back to health.”

Before the wig is delivered to Ms. Gaudio by Ms. Rowe, she will have it washed and blow-dried at a local salon. She will also relay the message that the 3 previous wearers are well. Ms. Rowe will also share the following anecdote.

Last winter, after Ms. Rowe went through chemotherapy, she promised her 3-year-old son, Alex, that her hair would return when the leaves were back on the trees. The first time Alex saw her in the wig, he got excited. He ran to the window, and even though it was still winter, he shouted, ‘Mommy, I can see the leaves coming back on the trees!’

Ms. Rowe explains that the “wig’s magic reaches beyond those who’ve worn it…It helped her little boy imagine the possibilities of spring.” Through the magic of “reaching out,” Holland America Lines through its 5K deck walks, my girlfriend through her “prayer shawl,” and wearers of the “healing wig” through their shared strength, and so many others like them, continue to ensure that, “hope springs eternal.” 

for my sister, as she recovers, huge hugs…hugmamma.

6 thoughts on “breast cancer, “reaching out”

hugs for sharing some brief thoughts...and keeping them positive

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