Yes, I am bald. (see pictures below)
My recent battle with cancer and my chemotherapy has taken its toll on my scalp. The drug I was given for chemotherapy, cisplatin, is not supposed to cause copious hair loss, but it has been known to happen. In my case, my hair was thinning drastically. I would wake up every day with the pillow covered in hair. My shower drain was clogged after every shower. I had to clean my brush out daily.
My hair wasn’t falling out in clumps like you see in the movies or like other cancer patients have experienced; it was thinning at a fantastic rate. I found myself last week staring in the mirror and seeing a bunch of new growth and my old, long hair, at the same time on my scalp. Once the long hair had fallen out, new and healthy hair was growing in its place. I need my hair to be healthy and the same length towards the end of the year for my wedding, so I decided to shave my head and start over.
I was going to coordinate a charity for my scalping – something to promote awareness of childhood cancer – but my hair was falling out so fast that I didn’t have time to wait for the event to solidify.
But let’s take a minute to talk to about cancer in our children. If you’re like me, you never gave it much thought. You donated, perhaps, when the mood suited you. You clucked and shook your head at the tragedy of it all as you watched the television commercials promoting awareness. That is, you stayed tuned to the channel as long as others were in the room; you didn’t want to seem insensitive after all. When you were alone, though, you probably either changed the channel or found some other way to distract yourself while the commercial was on – anything to avoid the uncomfortable feeling, the choked up feeling you knew you would get if you watched.
You had a choice – you could ignore cancer and the effects it has on children. I had that same choice and I exercised it regularly. Not any longer. This past year has shown me how truly horrific cancer is and how adversely it impacts an entire family.
I can’t imagine the strength necessary for parents to watch their child go through chemotherapy. Through radiation therapy. I can’t imagine how much fortitude and optimism a family has to maintain when a child is suddenly fighting not for a favorite toy but for life.
I struggle with the knowledge that the hell I went through; weight loss, surgery, pain, hospitalization, puking, nausea, loss of appetite, loss of hair, loss of memory and slowing of synaptic firings, and more. I struggle not for me – I am an adult, I am educated. I knew what to expect. I could, and did, find peace with it because I understood completely the necessity of it.
I struggle with the thought that a child, barley old enough to ride a bike, who has only seen the ocean a couple of times, who has never flown in an airplane, has to go through what I did and more. I, literally, cry, at the thought of someone’s baby struggling to survive through the treatments. My heart bursts when I think of the parents and how they have to smile and provide positivity for that child even as their hearts and souls scream out at the injustice of it all – as they look on helpless to do anything other than just BE there.
So, while I couldn’t raise money for cancer research with my hair scalping, maybe I can raise some awareness here on my blog. I do have readers from all over the world; hundreds of you. All I ask is that just for one moment you put yourself in the shoes of a parent who has to watch his daughter or son fight for life against cancer. What if it were your child? Don’t abstract it – bring it close to home. Feel the pain, if only for a moment, and realize that what you are feeling is just a drop in the bucket compared to reality.
Remember that feeling and do something about it. No child deserves this disease. No family should have to deal with it. Contribute – find a way to make a difference. Start here: http://www.volunteermatch.org/ . Find ways to help cancer patients in your area. Find ways to donate time and money. Make it happen. Cancer is indiscriminate and it COULD be you – or your child – or someone you know.
OK – my hair scalping . . . On Saturday I went to my brother’s house and let all his kids and my kids have fun scalping me. I pretended like it was painful and very sad to me – the kids loved “torturing” me. So, without further adieu, here is the scalping of Ron Sparks:
The tools of my scalping!
Me just before the tragic event . . .
My son Christopher takes the first cut . . .
My daughter Ashlee takes the second cut . . .
My nephew Anthony . . .
My nephew Ellis . . .
My niece Leilani giggled the whole time . . .
My nephew Cameron . . .
My nephew Jose . . .
Even Carey got in on the fun!
I’m a confused mess! Time to shave me!
The first swipe gave me a reverse mohawk!
About this time I wanted to rewind the clock and get my long hair back.
Yes, that’s a checkerboard pattern on my skull. My brother was having entirely too much fun shaving my head.
Closer . . .
He’s not only a Fun Guy – he’s BALD!
Look at all this hair! What can I do with it?
I know – BURN it in a symbolic gesture of closure!
Then I can have my 39th Birthday cake!
And then I can go to the beach to get sun on my bald scalp!
And finally, I can dress up and go see a friends’ baby get baptized!
Remember the children, folks; find a way to contribute your time and money to help.