A Little Experiment by Meghan Bianco

Previous published on her blog

Dear Friend,
We are 10 weeks post chemo! I can’t believe how incredible that feels just typing that! It’s amazing the things that still affect me because of chemo.

The smell of windex (and most cleaning products) still makes me nauseous because it reminds me of the chemo infusion room. (Just imagine how many antibacterial/cleaning products they use there!)

I have yet to use my water bottle that I used all through chemo. I’ve washed it so many times, but I swear it still “tastes” like chemo.

The thought of salmon makes me sick because I was on a salmon diet for so many months.

My body still aches, my neuropathy is still very much active, my body is very cold all the time, and my migraines still like to make their presence known.

One thing that’s changing though: my hair! It finally coming back. It’s probably only about an inch long still, but sometimes (when I’m not freezing), I like to go out without a headwrap. It’s such a liberating feeling to be out and about, blending in with the public. Some people may suspect I’m in remission, but others may just think I’m going for the pixie cut look or GI Jane, as Jordan likes to say.

The first day I went without my wrap for a full day, Jordan and I took the boys to the Magic House in St. Louis. It was a hectic day (as all days are with two little ones), but it was perfect. A perfect day out of the house with my family doing something the kids loved. One woman complimented me on my short cut. I don’t think she knows how much I replay that compliment in my mind. I was following Mason through a crowd, high anxiety, surrounded by tons of people. She stopped me to tell me she loved my hair and I swear I’ve been thinking about it since.

Do you know what’s strange though? Other than that woman, no one else really paid attention. No one cared that I had scars or short hair. No one cared that I had beat cancer or that I had spent 6 months in a bed.

And on top of no one paying much attention, people were rude. Like flat out, no better way of putting it. No thank you or excuse me. No smiles or kind nods. Nothing.

And then it hit me. They don’t know I had cancer. At first, I was ecstatic. And then, after being bumped around a few times, stared at many times, and not hearing one excuse me, I got mad and a little curious. Is this how life was before cancer? Were people always this rude? So I tested it.

Since that day, I’ve tested my headwrap. Sometimes I’ll go into a store with it and sometimes without.

And sure enough, when I wear my headwrap, I get smiles and encouraging nods. People use their manners and they ask how I’m doing. Some let me go ahead of them in line and some offer to help me carry things.

And when I don’t wear my headwrap? Well, friend, I guess it’s what you deal with everyday. People are rude and pushy. They heavy sigh when I’m slow and they roll their eyes when I’m in their way. They honk and they yell and they certainly don’t let me cut in line. Because, after all, I’m just a normal girl with two kids and a pixie cut.

Since my diagnosis, the world had seemed to be a better place. People seemed kinder, the world seemed brighter and life seemed better than ever. Had I been living in some cancer bubble? When my hair grows back, is this how people will start treating me?

This whole experiment has made me really sad at the world. Why must someone be dying in order for people to smile at each other? Why does someone have to have cancer just for you to say excuse me or thank you or how are you?
My illness was obvious. The bald head pretty much made everyone aware I had cancer. But some illnesses are not so obvious.

Some people deal with terrible mental illnesses. They probably had to really talk themselves into going to the store for that milk they got. Leaving their house, driving a car, walking into a crowded store full of judgmental people just to buy their kids some milk.

Some people are caring for their dying friends and family. They are crushed and devastated and just trying to make it through another day without breaking down. Walking around like a zombie on no sleep just trying to remember why they came into this store.

Some people are stressed and pushed past their breaking point, but they are trying to hold it together for just one more hour until they can get home to their bed.

Not everyone’s battles are so noticeable. Not everyone who’s hurting has a bald head. And what hurt me the most about this experiment is not the rudeness that I’ve experienced, but instead envisioning how other people are being treated every single day.
Today, tomorrow and everyday forward, you should be kind to the strangers you know nothing about. They are fighting a battle that you cannot see and your rudeness and insensitivity is cruel.

So if you aren’t in a hurry and you see someone that is, let them cut in line. If you see a shirt you really like on someone, tell the person. I promise you’ll make their day. If you see a mother struggling with her three young kids, don’t cast a judgmental glare. Instead, offer a sympathetic “we’ve all been there” smile.
Be kind to others today, friend. Let’s work together to make this a better world for our kids. A kinder, more gentle world. A world where you don’t have to be bald to get respect and compassion.
-Meghan

Writing

I have friends who swear by Natalie Goldberg. I first encountered her years ago through a former colleague at SIUE, Kevin McCleary. I loved her first book because she said it was all right at times to stay in your robe all day and do nothing. My kind of gal!

But now I live in New Mexico as does she. I took a writing class not long ago where the teacher taught it ala Ms. Goldberg. At first I wasn’t happy. Why? Well I finally got back to writing and planned to retire once again from teaching so I could write. I had stories, plays, novels, so many things on the burner( but not poetry – I don’t do that!). I did not want to “practice” writing! Mid-way through the course I began to see the real value of the Goldberg system. For any who may not be familiar with it, one does “timed” writings. You have a topic (My teacher gave us lists of options for this.) and you just write without stopping. You don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, revising, you just keep writing.

If you have been reading some of what I post on this website, you will find typos, selections that seem to need editing. As I was reading the entries after my web gal Kendra posted them, I discovered these errors. Much of what I’ve posted already were selections written over the years and I didn’t catch the typos and wasn’t into worrying about revisions.

Panic! Do I redo all of them and make the corrections? At this point in time, NO! and I will use Ms. Goldberg’s system as my excuse. Is that okay with you? Let me know.

Today I… Had Thanksgiving on my mind

Had Thanksgiving on my mind. Surrounded in recent days with so many planning the family gatherings and celebrations, of course I would go back to my past. I must check with my sister because I remember growing up, and at Christmas we had my Mom’s family over. In January it was my Dad’s side because he, one of his brothers, and a nephew all had January birthdays. But right now I can’t remember the Thanksgivings of my youth. My sister will be able to tell me about that. Whenever we had any of these gatherings, I remember there was a hierarchy of sitting at the big dining room table. (That table by the way now resides in the Catholic priest’s dwelling as Mom and Dad downsized then they sold our big house next to his.) I know there were two shifts of grownups, and the wee ones were in the “breakfast room” with the goal of making it two second shift of grownup status.

In recent years I have been alone for this holiday, and that has been okay. Since my friend moved back to Santa Fe last Christmas, she and I will go out to dinner this evening. Having been raised for many years with the huge family type holidays, it is at times nostalgic to think back . Each year it gets easier. But this year a memory came back, and it is not a pleasant one.

While still married and my children being very young, the holidays were spent with my family in my home town. When my Mom got up in age, my brother and his wife took over the holiday get togethers. Of course it was like most families, a bit chaotic. I loved it; a time my children could meet or renew relationships with their many cousins.

This one year however, my husband said he preferred we have our Thanksgiving dinner at home.   I told him I thought my brother wouldn’t understand this change after all these years. He said to tell him we might stop by for a drink. As per usual, I gave in. It was not pleasant, and from then on there was a drifting apart. So Thanksgiving became my immediate family and not much else. In fact it was one such dinner that sparked my divorce. But that’s another story.

I said earlier that this memory was not a pleasant one. The “not pleasant” was because years later somewhere along the line, my daughter made the comment “Well Thanksgiving we really never did much anyway.”   That hurt!   In retrospect (and why must it always be in retrospect!) I realize that my husband had a life long aversion to being with family groups which was in addition to his saying he wanted leftovers, and if we went somewhere he wouldn’t have any. In those days I would have loved to invited some of our International Students to our home for Thanksgiving, but of course I didn’t.

Thinking of the best that I could remember, it was when a student who I was supervising in the Alternative Licensure Program, invited me to his Mother’s home for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was part pot luck, but to me a pot of gold. It was the type of experience I loved. There was a mixture of cultures, ages, Jungian scholars, musicians, artists, everything! As we sat down to begin our dinner, we each were asked to state what we were thankful for. For me, finally a great experience.

I am happy to say that my daughter does have great Thanksgiving Dinners these days. She creates memories for her family and their friends. And…it’s okay that I am not there.

Dennis Detoye

This obituary written by Dennis’s family really says it all. I would just like to add my endorsement to his teaching life. My son as a freshman, was fortunate to have him as his first art teacher in high school. Dennis, being the excellent teacher and human being he was, spotted my son’s interest in animation and encouraged him throughout his four years culminating in films where younger students were working on those films. Later on visits back home, my son would visit Dennis’s classes and share his work on George Lucas and other directors’ films.   Wow! As I write this, it just dawned on me that Dennis’s leadership as Mayor must also have influenced my son. I remember being shocked that my son living in a small unincorporated California community headed a board and spent time fighting an oil company polluting it.

What I am most grateful for is that Dennis was there as a wonderful role model when my son needed one so desperately.

dennis-detoye

Download