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