Today was one of those days where I woke up and I immediately had that feeling of the “blues”. It is just one of those things you cannot control, but before my feet even hit the floor I began to pray that the Lord would intercede and help me to feel His loving and peaceful arms wrapped around me, and to please guide and direct my steps today.
So, I began my morning routine, except today the tears were flowing pretty steadily. I got dressed and left the house to run my errands. In the midst of the running around and wiping the tears I received a call from my friend and hair stylist (who was just released from the hospital a few days ago) asking me if I wanted to come in for a little touch up since I missed my appointment last week. Of course I said yes!
As I arrived and walked into the salon I saw a lady sitting under the dryer, flipping through a magazine. I didn’t really pay much attention to her at first, until I got seated in the chair across from her and then we began to talk. She spoke about how she used to love having blonde hair and would hope to have it again, once her hair had grown back in some more. That statement quickly grab my attention! I went on to speak with this lovely woman in depth about being diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2010.
Her name is Carla, and she is my first unplanned, impromptu F.A.C.E.S. story. After speaking with her and seeing how she exuded a joy that was so contagious, I could not wait to get home and write about some of what she shared with me.
From the moment Carla began to speak she had such a radiant smile on her face. She spoke about being diagnosed at the young age of 52. I asked her how she found out that she had breast cancer? She said she went for her routine mammogram ("Mammo-on-Wheels" she called it!). She was subsequently asked to do a ultrasound and a biopsy. She went on to say she got that dreaded phone call at work telling her that she had cancer. Her mother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 61 and made a full recovery, but a few years later lost her battle to stage four colon cancer. Carla was certainly no stranger to the world of cancer. She really didn’t talk a lot about the medical end of things, except about the chemotherapy that led to her hair loss, and that she underwent 34 radiation treatments while continuing to work!
Carla was more eager to share about the support and care she has received from her family, friends, and co-workers. She enjoys playing tennis and shared with me a wonderful story of how her tennis team attended an annual tennis tournament that she always looked forward to going to, but due to her chemotherapy could not go that year. Her tennis team made little fans with a picture of her face on them and would take pictures of the fans in different places at the tournament. Her team told her “we are bringing you with us!” They even managed to get a professional tennis player to take a picture with the fan and autograph it! You could tell this was a memory etched forever in Carla’s heart. Her face beamed with joy as she told it. Another sweet story she passionately shared involved her co-workers who all wore pink (even the men) on the day she returned back to work after her surgery. Carla said it was quite a sight!
I feel like it is moments like that, that help bridge the gap of loneliness and fear that cancer patients often suffer through. Carla shared how she would meet other breast cancer patients, some that would be really sick as the disease had progressed, and others that had made it through and were doing well. She said she used to think how grateful she was that she was not as sick as some and how much hope it would bring her being able to see the ones who had conquered and made it through. She shared how she viewed this experience as a chapter in her life and she kept turning the pages.
When I asked her in what way did she feel like cancer had changed her, she said “I just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.” Laughing, she said she surely doesn’t complain about having a bad hair day! I about fell out of my chair when she said that...talk about a quick reality check! All of a sudden the gray hairs didn’t seem that important anymore. And in the biggest, brightest smile Carla said the thing with chemo is that you also lose all your facial hair so it was nice not to have to worry about plucking or waxing for a while! Her attitude simply amazed me.
As she finished getting all dolled up, we exchanged emails, I took a quick picture of her and I told her I was going to write about her. She had inspired me with her positive spirit, her glowing smile and her willingness to be so open and share with me in hopes of helping others through their cancer journey. We may have been complete strangers when I walked in, but we definitely sparked a friendship that was ignited by common bond of a cancer journey. I was indeed blessed!
On my drive home I was smiling thinking about meeting Carla and how the weight of the world didn’t feel quite as heavy as it had. I was so thankful that the Lord had used Carla to bring some light into the darkness of my day. It was funny, I thought: I had no hair appointment, no intentions of going to that salon today, but my Heavenly Father had other plans for me.
I am reminded how God is always there to guide and direct our steps every single day. We just have to be willing to follow.