Yesterday morning, a simple run to the local (famed) donut place, brought with it a gift of hope and kinship and gratitude.
Whenever we go out in public, I strap on my mask. That darn thing elicits some of the most interesting responses from people who see it. Many people don't notice, either they are used to it around here or don't care. Some people do a double take (it's cool, I would too before all this). Some people lose their minds, freeze, and stare wide eyed and some have been known to actively get away from me, and in an (ahem) less than subtle way (BOOOGIE BOOOOGIE!). Once, there were a pair of very 'gussied up' young women who walked veeeeery slowly around a display of stationary I was looking at, eyes glued to me and whispering to each other. Nice. Kids, for obvious reasons, usually do the freezing and staring while loudly asking their parents questions. One of the best Mom answers was "it helps her breathe, sweetie". Good one:). The mask is a weird thing, I'll admit. The thing that people who freak out are probably thinking? Something along the lines of: "What does she have that she's trying to keep from giving to ME?!". Swine-flu-media-panic-hangover talk, I understand. In fact, I understand all of the reactions, but sometimes I just wish that someone would ask about it. Well, yesterday morning, that wish was granted in a very special way.
P and I stumbled into the donut place (Shipley's, if you're interested), which was as appropriately busy as a donut shop should be on a Sunday morning in the South (read: not. everyone else was in church). There were only two people sitting at the tables around the edge of the store, a young Mom and her daughter, who was maybe 5 years old. My ears caught, just for a split second, the little girl start to say something to her mom like: "Mom she looks like...." and then her arm raised to point in my direction. I just turned my body slightly and let it go, she's a kid after all. Anyway: MMMMM DONUTS. Well, just as P and I were paying for our treats, I feel a light tap on my arm and turn to see the Mom and daughter standing next to us, looking, well, emotional. Mom says this:
"Excuse me, are you going through cancer treatment?" My breath caught, "Yes". When I turned to face her completely she was CLEARLY very emotional about this exchange, sort of nervous but really really wanted to talk to me. Then, she says this: "My daughter, this is my daughter (motions to the little girl who is now twirling- not kidding -twirling in circles next to us) saw you when you came in and said 'Mom she looks like you did last year!". GULP. The woman goes on to say: "I went through treatment last year, I finished my last surgery almost a year ago and I remember wearing the mask everywhere. Can I ask what kind of cancer you are being treated for?" I answered: "Well, I had leukemia but then two months ago I had a bone marrow transplant". She says: "Wow, well, you look great. Hey, your hair will come back. Mine came back really curly, it was never curly before. Look! I have to pile mine on my head in this crazy Edwardian hairdo now!(It wasn't crazy, it was actually very pretty, well, SHE was very pretty.) Good luck with everything, really you'll be just fine". Then, as she turned to leave, I barely got out: "Thank you!!! You too! You look great! before she booked it out the door.
So, through the universe, to that woman:
Thank you, woman and daughter. Thank you for reaching out. Thank you for being the kind of courageous person that does. That is just so, so special and it was blessing to experience your courage. I can't imagine what it felt like for you to come up to me, it looked like you were pretty emotional about it. I can't imagine what you went through in your treatment, what your daughter felt going through whatever it was with you. If you have a significant other, I can't imagine what it was like for them. I can't imagine how horrible it is that your daughter has those images of her mom going through treatment. I'm sorry that I didn't have the presence of mind to ask you what your diagnosis was. What was it? You really did look amazing and healthy. Something tells me that you are one hell of a fighter. Thank you also for making me step outside of the Laura-bubble for a moment and making me see that others reaction to my appearance is very personal to them, I can never know what someone else has been through that they are seeing reflected in me. It's not about me. Please, universe, send that woman and her daughter and their family love and blessings and gratitude from my heart. Her gesture meant so much more than she'll ever know.