I came across them a couple of months ago, when I was cleaning out my closet. There was the wig with the long, thick blonde hair that I’d sometimes pull up into a ponytail or through the back of a baseball cap, the shoulder-length one with soft waves that had fooled everyone at my high school reunion, the sexy Marilyn Monroe platinum blonde one that I wore when I was feeling well enough for a night on the town.
As I searched a little farther back on the shelf, I saw all of the bandanas my cousin Christine had made for me — the wedgewood blue one covered in tiny silver stars, the bright yellow one with jewels sewn in the shape of flowers, the breast-cancer-ribbon pink one, and my favorite — the tie-dye one. At the very back, I came across the sable knit cap my friend Maureen had knitted for me over the course of the cold winter weekend when I’d first received my diagnosis. I took everything off of the shelf, packed it carefully and set it aside. I’d bring it with me to my next appointment at the Beaumont Breast Care Center.
Yesterday morning, I grabbed the bag and threw it in the car. I was off for my quarterly blood draw.
After my appointment, I stopped by the Resource Center. That’s where I met Ruth, the soft-spoken woman with the silver hair who oversees the Center.
“I thought maybe someone else could use these,” I said. As I opened the bag and began unpacking its contents, I found myself sharing moments from 2006. “I wore this tie-dyed bandana to a Tigers game in June, and here’s the wig I wore to my high school reunion. It did the trick — no one even realized I was going through chemo.
“This one — well, it made me feel sexy when my husband and I were out celebrating our 7th wedding annivesary,” I continued. “And surely someone could use this knit cap in weather like this,” I said, thinking of an older, bald-headed woman being pushed in a wheelchair I’d seen in the Cancer Center just a few minutes earlier.
Ruth listened intently and patiently as I made my way down to the bottom of the bag. There was a brief silence and then I looked into her eyes and, by way of explanation, said, “I’ve had this stuff for four years now, and I meant to donate it sooner. But I guess I was afraid to — afraid, somehow, that I’d be tempting fate.”
Ruth put her hand over mine, nodded gently and said, “Lots of women feel that way.”
I told her that I’d be celebrating my fourth anniversary cancer-free on March 3, 2010, and that I was finally beginning to feel a little more secure, a little more sure that I was going to be OK.
“I won’t be needing these anymore,” I said, perhaps more to myself than to her. I turned then, leaving everything sprawled on the table in her office,
The bandanas, the wigs, the knit cap have a job to do for other women who are going through what I once did, not so long ago. It was time for me — and for them — to move on.