Privacy, Popeye & Me
Posted October 22, 2009on:
I don’t or expect everyone to wear an ice cream cone on his or her head, considering how much balancing it takes to be successful with that task.
The cone I had on my head at The Pearl Ice Cream Shop in La Crosse this week for one of my silly photo shoots actually stayed better on my noggin once part had broken off.
But the art or skill involved in being a Conehead is not the goal of this blog entry. Instead, I’m pondering the issue of whether it is better to be public about what ails you or to be private.
I have, clearly, taken the public approach. I can’t imagine keeping my cancer a secret.
What I would miss are the opportunities to have people I care about – plus strangers – express their love and concern for me. I draw on that support and it helps me get through whatever needs to be gotten through and there is much in this cancer business.
On the other end of the spectrum was my mom’s very dear lifelong friend, Hazel. She developed cancer and then announced she did not want anyone to see her “that way.” It devastated my mother who one time steeled up the courage to visit this friend in a nursing home only to be told to leave.
Hazel was ashamed and didn’t want my mom to see her without hair. My mother would only have seen her friend, not a baldhead. In a sense she lost her friend before she had to lose her friend. As I said, it was very difficult for my mother.
This happened in an era, probably in the late 1970s, when people of Mom’s generation still were not as open about cancer. It was so frightening and only whispered about. You didn’t say the word word, cancer, out loud for fear it would bring the evil down upon yourself or your loved ones.
It’s not all generational. I sometimes hear of people today who don’t want anyone to know about their cancer.
Sometimes friends and neighbors are told to stay away rather than to be given the opportunity to express their love for this person or willingness to help. I had a conversation with one of those friends today who asked what she should do. I suggested she drop off a treat or send a note, referring to the advice she had been given to stay away but indicating she just wanted to express her support.
I’ve gone to the extreme, a reflection of my personality. It’s like Popeye would sing, “I yam what I yam what I yam.”
The photos are a way to have some fun with my baldness, to wear my lack of hair with Balditude. I have firmly decided not to hide anything. And I hope others will feel comfortable doing the same. There is no shame to losing one’s hair from chemotherapy; it’s just something that happens.
By the way, in confirming the “yam” quote of Popeye’s I was reminded he and I share distaste for spinach.
“Spinach? I hate spinach!” he says in the 1980 live action movie, which apparently follows the original comic strip story line.
In my all-day kindergarten, where we had to take “a kindergarten bite” of everything set before us, I threw up regularly at the table. I was a charming child.
The school called my mother and I would go home. Since I was no longer sick I’d go outside and play. Eventually, Mom figured it out and told the school not to force me to eat anything.
Popeye succumbed to spinach in a way I never did. When he met his father, Poopdeck Pappy, he was told the only way to get strong was to eat spinach. “If you’d eat your spinach, you’d not be losin’ your fight!” Poopdeck told him.
(And you have to admit, Poopdeck is quite a name for a father to have)
Wanting to be strong and to fight out off anyone – including Bluto – seeking the affections of his beloved Olive Oyl – Popeye succumbs to calls for him to eat the dreaded vegetable, singing, “I’m strong to the finish because I eats my spinach. I’m Popeye the Sailor Man.”
This vegetable gives him the strength he needs and his muscle pop or Popeye out.
For me, the spinach ship sailed long ago. And, being the public person that I am and one who still turns green at even a whiff of the cooked stuff, you definitely wouldn’t want to serve that stuff to me for fear of what I might do at the dinner table. I’m also a charming adult.