by Susie Merz

Karen Bowen's e-book Amazon at C: 12 Steps for Navigating Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment is a practical guide for how to get through the bewildering first steps of receiving a cancer diagnosis and proceeding through treatment.

photo by Warren Bowen / click to enlarge

Karen includes some funny stories from her own experience with cancer, including one story about hair loss while on a date:

"I had been single for some time and decided to date during chemo. I thought ‘Why not? Maybe it will take my mind off things.’ Also, one thing a cancer diagnosis makes you realize is: No time like the present! I was on my first date with a guy who seemed keen. While I was eating my soup, I noticed there was hair in it. I was going to call the waiter over, when I realized to my horror that it was MY hair in the soup and it was falling out NOW. I did not realize the hair would just fall out like that. I thought it would be a gradual hair here and there—no, this was a mass exodus. Mortified, I excused myself from the date—told him I was not feeling well and skedaddled out of the restaurant. I did not hear from him again, and that was the last date I went on for a while." (p. 10)

With the loss of hair that often comes with cancer treatment, wearing a wig is an option to consider. In this next excerpt, Karen describes the somewhat complicated relationship she had with a wig, and the adventures it went on:

"The cancer agency offers free wigs to patients. I found one that I really liked and was also low maintenance so I could just plop it on my head and go out the door, almost like a hat. That said, I never seemed to get along very well with my wig. I think I saw it as a symbol of the cancer and I was mad at it. As I had no hair for the wig to attach to, it would often slip off my head. One particularly gusty day, the wig blew off as I was crossing the street. To my chagrin, a car ran over it. I went to retrieve the wig and even though it was run over it seemed none the worse for wear. I plopped it on my head, backwards, and headed to a work-related party where many complimented me on my new hairdo! Maybe that is the secret to good hair—the car run over look!” (p. 10)

In fact, the wig really can take on a life of its own, as this next incident describes:

"On a hot day, I took the wig off my bald sweaty head, put a cap on, then put the wig in my purse while I ate my lunch. The waitress was hovering nervously near my table. Finally, she came over and pointed at my purse and asked: 'Is that a dog in your purse?' Says it all, doesn’t it?" (p. 11)

Indeed it does. Karen’s stories remind us that there can be humour in the midst of difficult circumstances and that having a good laugh at those times may be a saving grace. Karen Bowen attended a Callanish retreat in February 2015 and has been making us laugh ever since.

Susie Merz first came to Callanish as a retreat participant in 2015 and has since joined the staff team as a clinical counsellor. She has worked as a therapist for over 14 years, both in nonprofit agencies and in her own counselling practice.