Friday, August 17, 2012


Our son Teddy is a very sensitive little kid.  Aside from a few expected spastic times, for example, when he is flailing himself around on the living room floor trying to hit Brian or I because we took the iPad away before dinner, he is very cautious of other people's feelings.  We knew this about him from a very young age.  Around two years old, he had a healthy obsession with the show "Handy Manny," you know, the one with the four-finger-per-hand handy-man and his box of talking tools (if anyone knows why they didn't just slap another finger on each hand, please message me).  In one episode, Manny's friend, Eliot, falls on his skateboard and breaks his arm (or his leg, I forget).  Either way, Eliot is lying in a hospital bed with a cast on.  Teddy's reaction?  An all out complete and total mental breakdown.  He was absolutely devastated that Eliot was hurt and even now, over two years later, he avoids that show.  (My poor mom also learned this lesson the hard way when she babysat one night and a Sesame Street episode included Big Bird in an arm sling.  My mother dealt with a screaming Teddy for two hours after that.)  I actually count it is as a parenting success that he genuinely cares about people's feelings and gets very upset if he thinks someone else is hurt, although I feel badly that he suffers the consequences of it.  (As a quick side note, if you need proof of how different our two kid are, Annabel doesn't mind giving anyone a good whack if they're in the way of something she wants to do.  She just follows it up with an open-mouthed kiss and thinks that erases any wrongdoing.  And she's right, somehow it does.)  Anyways, this sensitive part of Teddy has got me thinking a lot about the upcoming months...

So yesterday, I got my hair cut.  Not really short, but shorter.  Even though chemo isn't a definite, Dr. Bunnell says it's highly likely, and even though (I have been told) losing my hair on chemo also isn't inevitable, I expect it to happen.  Teddy seeing me with no hair is going to be hard for him, so I thought it'd be good to ease him into it.  A little cut now, a little more before the chemo begins, and hopefully a shaved head won't be so much of a shock.  Of course, this is for Annabel too, since, even at one-and-a-half she is also very observant.  (When Auntie Lauren (Sean's girlfriend who Annabel adores) got bangs, Annabel immediately touched the top of her head, as if to say, "I see what you did, Auntie Lauren.  You can't get anything past me!")

(Oh, and for those of you wondering, Dr. Bunnell never called yesterday with more results on the additional HER2 testing, although I felt like I would vomit every time my phone rang.  In fact, I feel that way now just thinking of it so I'll quickly move on.)

Ever since we moved to Canton when I was eight years old, I have gotten my hair cut at the same place  -- Helen's Hairstyling.  Helen is an incredible woman, and a few months ago when she stayed late to cut my hair after my kids went to bed so I wouldn't have to miss them, I asked her about how she began her own business.  It was an inspiring American story of a woman (and mother) with true grit and determination who started with almost nothing and built something great.  So obviously, yesterday, we headed to Helen's because she's definitely in that "best of the best" group that I mentioned before.

Helen had a brand new hairdresser on staff that day -- let's call her Bridget since I don't know her enough to know that she'd want her name to be posted on my blog.  Bridget told me the times that Helen would be available, or, she said, she could cut my hair, "but I'm really new," she explained.  "That's great, I replied, I want you to cut it."  Bridget tried to mask her surprise at my response, but I always love to give new people a shot.  We all have to start somewhere, right?  And if she completely screwed up my hair, it'd be all gone in a month or two, so it really didn't matter anyways!

Bridget was lovely.  Sure, she splashed shampoo in my eye and struggled with the hair clips, but she took such pride, such care, in cutting my hair, that I sat there with a some peace in me (I admit, I still had periodic shivers of cancer-fear, but they were at least somewhat under control during this hour).  I love seeing people do what they love to do.  And of course, I love it even more when what they love to do helps other people.

This also got me thinking about my core medical team, by whom I mean my breast surgeon (Dr. Nakhlis), my medical oncologist (Dr. Bunnell), and my plastic surgeon (Dr. Chun).  So far, I'd also label this team "the best of the best."  Obviously, their clinical skills will be of primary importance in the end, but now, as I battle the emotional demons of a cancer diagnosis, their inter-personal skills are what matters most.  I haven't talked about Dr. Chun yet, and there's so much I will share about the plastic surgery consult appointment (and plan), but for now, I'll just tell you about her.

When we met with Dr. Chun a few days ago to discuss "reconstruction" of my front-side after Dr. Naklis removes both of my breasts (yes, we're going all out with the double mastectomy), we saw a professional at her very best.  Dr. Chun looked like she was put on this earth to do what she's doing.  She sat with Brian, my mom, and I as if she'd sit there forever, answer any question in the world we may throw at her, and devise a plan that was best for me.  She was sincere, confident, intelligent, calm, honest, and hopeful.  Just the combination you want in the person who will literally have my open chest in her hands.

So what's the point of all this?  I feel like it's a lot more rambling than I've done in the past (maybe because I hear Annabel rolling around in her crib and Teddy's pre-wake up whines).  I guess it's only a short opinion piece on how much I love to find those people in the world who do their job with pride, and care, and sincerity.  (And, I have to add, those moms and dads who stay home with their kids totally count in this bunch as I'm convinced they have the most challenging and important jobs of all.)   Whether it's cutting my hair, handing me my take out food at the Olive Garden (that guy last night was wonderful too, and he obviously didn't even know I had cancer), or talking me through the clinical treatment plan that will save my life, I cherish the chance to see those people in action.  Oh, and if you ever need one more example to hit this point home, watch my husband teach a history class or coach a hockey practice.  You've never seen anything like it.

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