Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Lessons Not Learned from a Textbook

It was during the month of June, when, on one particularly warm day approximately two months after losing my hair from the chemo, I'd noticed that several of my hanging plants in my backyard were nearly dead from my own neglect. Extremely disappointed at seeing them, I immediately walked outside as fast as my chemo-laden muscles would allow, filled the watering can, and began supplying the limp vines clinging inside each basket with water. Within minutes, I became so warm (just another one of those wretched HOT flashes again) that I just HAD to remove that uncomfortable wig, which I'd previously placed upon my bald head as I anticipated leaving the house to run an errand or two. It was during this time that I'd refused to go out of the house without wearing my wig; I just couldn't bear to expose my cancer in public by wearing merely a scarf or cap on my head.

I thought that I could pull it off well, the cancer secret, I mean. "I'm not ever going to let people know that I have cancer," is what I though each time I donned that uncomfortable wig. Well, eventually, I did pull it off - the wig, that is - permanently. Here's how it all unfolded.

The increasing temperature of that day convinced me to remove that darned wig, and after surveying my immediate surroundings and deducing that none of the neighbors could possibly see me through the shade trees that lined the property, I took it off. I then placed it carefully on the patio table. Feeling much cooler, I finished watering the plants as I silently chastised myself for having had neglected them so severely. Then, looking at my watch, I nearly gasped because I'd remembered that I had a dentist's appointment scheduled within the hour. Snatching up my wig, I hastily replaced it on my head (after some previous practice in this feat, I had become VERY skillful at replacing and adjusting the wig without a mirror so that it looked quite natural).

While sitting in the chair at the dentist's office, my head seemed to itch more than usual. I'd scratched at my wig numerous times during that office visit. Each time I had felt the urge to scratch, while trying to adhere to normal social mores, I'd wait until the dentist turned his body slightly to adjust or retrieve something so that he wouldn't notice my incessant scratching. Just when I thought that the intense itching would drive me mad, my appointment came to an end, so I scooted to the nearest restroom as fast as I could.

Once inside the restroom, I didn't even waste time closing the bathroom stall door behind me before I ripped off the wig, and there, nestled inside my fake hair, I saw it: a completely dazed (I'm sure) Japanese beetle! It must have crawled into my wig - and staked its claim - when I'd momentarily laid the wig down on the patio table more than an hour earlier! To think that ALL THAT TIME I carried around a disgusting bug, provided it with a nice, cozy abode next to my warm scalp, and "massaged" its little exoskeleton repeatedly as I scratched! Well ... the thought of what it may have "deposited" while it enjoyed its little excursion atop my smooth scalp just sickened me. And, oddly enough, I felt as though I'd become an integral part of its food chain or something.

I never again wore that wig. And I felt so much more comfortable without it. More importantly, I smiled ... a lot more.

You know, it's amazing how doing some of the simplest things can teach you valuable lessons. Today, more than three years following that bug event, my daughter came home eagerly awaiting my assistance with her science homework, an exercise that was exclusively about beetles. And the funny thing is, I'd forgotten about that bug experience and it was only when Caroline mentioned it, laughingly, that those memories, particularly the insane itching, once again surfaced. I can surely laugh about it now; but I couldn't then. I've relearned an invaluable lesson: Life is just too short to take too seriously. Now that's a lesson that can't be taught in any textbook.


Kim said...

Karen, you were beautiful with or without the wig. I'm sorry that it made you suffer so.

Debby said...

I was a wig wearer. Even when I went back to work, I clung to that wig. I'd be tramping through the fields and swamps, wearing that wig. The thing is though, that every time I looked at myself in the mirror that wig was askew, cocked oddly, tilted forward, something...I finally just stopped wearing it. If I ever have to deal with this again, I don't think I'll wear a wig. They are awfully uncomfortable on a bare scalp. Even without the japanese beetle. LOL.