When Your Cancer Insides Show On The Outside

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When people find out you’re receiving treatment for breast cancer, but haven’t yet lost your hair, they’re calm and encouraging and full of fight for you. Once you start losing your hair, expect the same encouraging fight with a heaping side of uncomfortable unknowing about how to react properly to your cancer insides showing on the outside.

When Your Cancer Insides Show On The Outside

Laswy, that’s a lot of head. (DON’T SAY THAT!)

It’s easy to forget cancer when you have a full head of hair.  It’s easier to deal with when you look healthy on the outside, even if your insides need the chemo that will take your hair.

I don’t blame one person who has instantly become sad at seeing my head without hair. I don’t blame one person for being left without words they feel they can tell me, but instead offer tight smiles and unspoken worry. I don’t blame anyone any of their emotions. Not one.

Seeing the upending reality of cancer, up close and bald, is a sharp slap to the psyche, even for the strongest among us.

Bald chemo heads represent sickness, hardship, uneasiness, the unknown, tears, pain, but most of all, death. We know not everyone who has cancer dies, but we also know many do. When you see that head on the body of someone important to you, on the body of someone you love, it can leave you feeling helpless, scared and countless other awful emotions. I know this. You know this. But until you’re the one sporting the head without hair, you have no idea the weight of the emotion you evoke among the masses.

The first time I went out shopping, wearing a ball cap on my newly shaved head, I could see the lingering looks of strangers.  I saw folks look away as I went to meet their gaze. I saw shy smiles offered.  I saw care given to make sure I was given my space. None of it was unfamiliar because I’ve done the same; I’ve offered the same.  The only difference now was I was on the receiving end and it was intensely uncomfortable.

Not because of the love that surrounded me, but that I elicited the deeply instinctual emotion we have to care for those we think are frail. That part was hard.

This is what happens when your cancer insides show on the outside: folks want to love you well. Man, wouldn’t that be a blissful alternative to chemo, to be loved to complete wellness?

When people offer me what I have offered others in my position, there’s nothing I can do about it but let it roll on by and know that while I have unwell days, I’m certainly not frail, no matter what my head telegraphs to the world.

I am more than my bald head. I am still a person of action and faith and fight. This bald head does not define me, nor did it define the others before or those after me.  It’s a lesson that took me all of 5 minutes to learn once I stepped outside without my blonde locks.

Yep, my cancer insides are showing on the outside and it’s unnerving everyone.  So what can one do, other than offer tight smiles and an unsure spirit of expression?


* If you see me, give me an air high-five (I have to be careful with germs, so a full-contact high-five is a little outside my comfort zone with strangers) as I fight the fight.

* If you see me, smile the smile of one who knows another as conqueror. Nothing tight and uncomfortable about victory, is there?

* If you see me, acknowledge that I am trying my damnedest to kick cancer’s teeth in and my head is proof of such kickassery.

* If you see me, understand that I have not given one millimeter to cancer, nor do I plan to allow it to take from me that which I love.

* If you see me, rejoice in modern medicine’s ability to be my sharpened sword dripping with cancer’s entrails.

* If you see me, offer prayer for my restored health.

* If you see me, tell me your best knock-knock joke.  Laughter is good for the soul.

* If you see me, I am still alive; I am still living. Please do not pretend that I don’t have the same death sentence you have.  We’re all dying baby, and my bald head is no guarantee I’m leaving this earth before you.

* If you see me, know that I am not frail, but fighting for my life in a very public way, which brings us back to the air high-five!

Obviously, cancer is not easy.  Obviously, we’re gonna worry.  We can’t turn that part of ourselves off; I wouldn’t ask anyone to try.  What we can do is offer a moment of solidarity in the fight.

Yep, my cancer insides are showing on the outside.  Ain’t nothing I can do about that, but live.  Join me and reject those tight smiles and unsure spirits of expression.

~air high-five~








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  1. Such a courageous and strong post! My mom’s best friend is battling as well- she just got cleared for her reconstructive surgery! There is always hope <3


  2. I believe in you and praying for your quick recovery.

  3. Gena McWilliams says

    Girl! You are amazing, beautiful, and strong! We are all here fighting with you. I love your faith! Keep holding on to it! God’s got this!

  4. you are beautiful. truly truly. inside and out. praying for you!

  5. Thank you for not wearing a wig!

  6. Melissa D says

    Air five! You’ve got this. 🙂

  7. You are fantastic! – God’s strength shines within you and thank you for sharing your heart. I’m sending you a high five in the air! -Carole

  8. Rocio Chavez (@yoursassyself) says

    love this! thanks for offering how you want to be addressed, etc. cuz I’m not going to lie, we sometimes don’t know how to react, so thanks for thinking of us as you continue your journey filled with bravery & courage – high five lovely!

  9. Sending you a virtual high five! Praying for ya too!

  10. Praying for you. Your friend, Linda @Crafts a la Mode

  11. You are so strong and so beautiful! And I saw one of your comments about a wig being too hot…Isn’t that the truth. You ROCK it woman and stay strong! XOXO

  12. When I went bald, I had a few straggly hairs left that my husband cut off, because I could not see some of them. But I did wear my hat, after I finally ventured out and a small kid made a comment. I just want to say DON’T GIVE UP & KEEP PRAYING – DON’T LOSE FAITH!! GOD IS THE ULTIMATE PHYSICIAN!!! HE IS THE ONLY ONE THAT KNOWS WHAT LIES AHEAD!!
    I was given no time when they found my tumor after 2 years!! It was eating up my spine & I could hardly walk!! I had a radiation, chemo, etc. to kill my immune system. Then they froze my own stem cells and put them back in. I was in the hospital over a month & I kept having to have Aredia to strengthen my bones and for the pain. I am still on morphine. BUT BY THE GRACE OF THE GOOD LORD I AM STILL HERE! My doctors call me their miracle patient – yes miracles still happen! I will pray for you and bookmark this page so I can keep tabs on you. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY PRETTY MOMMA!!

    • Sue, what an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it with us and thank you for the prayers. I’ve lived long enough to know that docs take educated guesses and they can give us guidelines, but the can’t say for certain what the outcome will be. Keep fighting, and we in turn will pray for you.

  13. Air high five! You are an amazing and strong person! Wishing you all the best and sending prayers your way 🙂

  14. My mom and co-worker both had breast cancer. Both beat it. Mom has been cancer free for over 15 years. My co-worker had her 5 year mark. You will beat it too. As a woman, I already know you are strong. My prayers and good thoughts are going your way.

  15. This is so helpful. Lots of “awareness strategies” being publicized these days, yet appropriate response to cancer, involving far more people than those other populations combined, lacks the same amount of attention. I think we all approach with compassion, but adopting a supportive, upbeat response is something that remains to be learned. I have learned from you here, though, and I intend to share my new wisdom. Everyone knows, or is, someone with cancer today. It’s everywhere. And the large majority beat it soundly. You will too!
    PS And I think Dex does need a lil buddy, just for the heck of it!

  16. ~virtual air high-five~

  17. Wow, Patti! You are a champ. I love your declaration “we’re all dying baby … ” So true. And, our days are not guaranteed. The more people I have had to say goodbye to — especially those who died way too young– makes me more and more grateful for every day. I am so impressed with your courage, optimism and faith. You are getting my prayers for sure, girl. You are a winner and may you be healed completely… that is my prayer. Much love …. Sinea ♥

    • Yes, our days are not guaranteed and knowing people younger than me who have passed brings that close to home every day. Thank you for the kind words and prayers, friend.

  18. I am so glad I’ve discovered your site. And all because I was looking for SU guidance! Air high five my new friend. I’m subscribing now.

  19. Sarah Fuller says

    Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences. I appreciate your candidness very much.

  20. I have a hard time putting my thoughts together about watching others battling cancer, and you put it so well! So many of us that aren’t in the cancer battle want to help and be encouraging, but we simply don’t know what to do. This has been super helpful for me! Thank you Patti & I will be praying God restores your health and gives you wonderful moments with your family.

  21. Jamie @ Love Bakes Good Cakes says

    Air High Five, Patti! I broke down into tears reading this post …. it hits so close to home knowing what some of my family and friends have gone through with their battles over the years. I pray for your speedy recovery. You are an amazing and strong woman!

    • Thank you, Jamie. Too many people have found themselves in my shoes…it’s almost too much to comprehend. Thank you for the prayers and the air high-five!

  22. Thank you for this. My daughter was told she had breast cancer (at 29) Nov 2010. Over the last 4 1/2 years – she has lost her hair not once but twice. She wasnt comfortable doing the bald head in public thing the first time – lots of fancy scarves were her thing. Bought a wig but didnt wear it too many times. The second time – just put on a hat and away we go. So this has struck home. She is a fighter as I believe you are. Air High Five. Air Fist pumps (make sure they explode LOL) If it is ok with you – I would like to copy and post on my Facebook the part about what people can do.

  23. Cindy Gill says

    Thank you for this article. I just had surgery 10 days ago for breast cancer, and tomorrow I see my oncologist to find out if I will also need chemo. It has already been determined that I will need radiation and hormone therapy, but I’m praying not the chemo. I was struck by your message above: “But until you’re the one sporting the head without hair, you have no idea the weight of the emotion you evoke among the masses.” I really don’t feel much different. I still have hair and it’s just so surreal to be going through this. I imagine that once I start treatment, whatever all that will entail, reality will set in. You are an inspiration and I thank you for telling your story and showing us your pretty little bald head!

    • Cindy, I’m sorry that you are moving through the complicated world of breast cancer, but pray the very best for you. Thank you for sharing with us and pop back in and let us know how you’re doing.

  24. Cyber high-five comin’ atcha, girl along with nearly six hundred of the worst jokes you will ever hear- told by a chicken.

    Keep fighting the good fight. We’ve all got your back. ♥



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