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Those Things That Go AWOL ....

Quite a few things went missing when I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer – aside from the obvious: that breast that was once on the left-hand side of me.

Other things drifted away. The long, silver hair from my head, of course. (I gave my hair-tie collection to my daughter). I lost my eyelashes and all of that 'almost-invisible-anyway' downy hair from my face. Goodness knows where that stuff went; no doubt it slipped unseen down the shower plug-hole. Its departure left me oddly shiny-faced for half-a-year or so.

Eventually my eyebrows went AWOL, too … Away Without Leave. I’d peered at the mirror a few times and cajoled them to hang in there, pleaded with them not to leave me, lest I ended up looking like a cancer patient who wasn’t going to make it. I have to admit they were impressive, determinedly hanging on until the very last weeks after my final round of chemotherapy. And then they let go.

*Copyright, Love Layla Designs, U.K.

But the most disconcerting ‘loss’ was my memory. As the weeks went by, more and more I found myself ‘going blank’ – not just for a few seconds, but for what felt like long minutes.

“It doesn’t last,” the chemotherapy nurse assured me.

“I used to be quite intelligent,” I jest (even now!) to whoever is with me when these empty-brain moments occur. But it’s extremely frustrating. “Ahhh, poor woman, she’s not what she used to be.”

I forget appointments, even though they’re marked in my diary. (I forget to look at my diary). In my karate classes there are times when the teacher tells us we’re to perform a certain kata, and inwardly I panic. I whisper to the nearest senior: “Senpai, I’ve gone blank.” I might have just done that kata the day before, yet it goes completely AWOL from my brain cells – Away Without Leave.

(I wonder if I should do those ‘brain gym’ exercises, puzzles and crosswords, all sorts of memory games, and kata my way around my lounge - every single morning).

Memory is far more important than hair - that’s what I want to tell ‘the sisterhood’ – whoever is out there, facing cancer treatment and the cocktail of chemo that causes complete hair loss. I know many of you are so very distressed at the thought of losing all your hair, but I want to urge you: Just DON’T worry about that! Concern yourself with eating healthily, getting as much sleep as you can and, ultimately, beating that cancer, woman! DON’T worry about losing your hair. It is temporary.

Rock the ninja-style, Sister. You are strong. You are beautiful!

(Oh, and try playing some of those memory games).

- with love and light, Victoria


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