Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Yesterday I went back to work. I wore a pretty scarf that I bought and with just a few nerves, rode the bus and walked into my office. As it happens, I work on a floor that doesn't have a lot of people on it, so this wasn't nearly as hard as it could have been. I found that the people who know me acknowledged the loss of my hair and then moved on just like everything was back to normal. I felt normal too. Just like my normal self on the inside-just slightly different on the outside.

Strangers though do not see me as normal. It is interesting to observe the behaviors of people who do not know me but see me in a public place. Almost everyone looks, looks again and then quickly looks away. I can think of a few reasons why this might be so. First thought-a bald woman. Second thought-a woman with cancer. Third thought-don't stare, it's impolite. Or, Third thought-don't stare, poor girl. Or Third thought-don't stare, Thank God it's not me. Or Third thought-don't stare, she's not normal. Or Third thought-don't stare, I could "catch" it. Whatever their thoughts, they don't see me as normal, I can see it in their eyes, just before they look away.

Here is normal for me these days. I get up, feeling pretty good, take a walk in the morning and then a quick shower (and I do mean quick now!) I do some laundry, pay some bills, put away some clothes and eat breakfast. I worry about my kids and what their plans are for the day, kiss my husband goodbye, fight traffic to the bus stop, get on the bus with all the other commuters and go to work. All very normal. Oh, I also happen to be bald. Oh, and diagnosed with breast cancer.

Normal for me is that cancer is a part of my life. In some ways a very large part, but in some ways a very small part. It is not the only thing in my life. It is just one of the many varied parts, just like someone else might have a mole on their leg or an accent or arthritis. It isn't me, but it is part of me.

Who wants to be normal anyway? I'm better than normal. I am turning into a survivor.


Annie Searle said...

Tracy --

I'm sorry I wasn't there today to greet you. I think you've nailed the reactions you got, but find it's still a Seattle phenomenon to respect a "zone of privacy" around anyone who looks extra-ordinary. With my black eye and chin not disguised well by makeup, I know that lots of those elevator riders thought I must be a victim of domestic abuse, rather than someone who did a face plant at Fourth and Union.

Hang in there. I can't quite remember your schedule, but I'm back next Monday.

And I think you are extra-ordinary!

Kris R said...

I think I've made it clear over the course of our friendship that I believe normal is boring. (Have you met my kids?...lol) I am so, so very proud of you. I think you have to believe that everyone that sees you is sending you positive energy. We humans have evolved, but there are still times when due to our own insecurities or lack of experience, we can't express exactly what needs to be expressed ~ compassion and acceptance.
I've always been glad you're not "normal", it's part of what makes our friendship work. :-)