As Libby’s hair began to grow back following the chemotherapy, her once dark hair came in solid white and began to curl into hundreds of fine little ringlets perfectly sized to wrap around a pinky finger. Soon after the goose down hair started growing those same damaged hair follicles began producing thicker and darker hair, now capped with those fine, curly, white tips. Libby was not accustomed to change in any form, especially when it came to her hair, so she was slow to embrace the new look and unwilling to be seen in public without one of her wigs.
Nathan, Jerod and I were commenting on the unique and attractive look of Libby’s hair one Saturday night during one of our planned family nights. Embarrassed by the compliments and the attention she was getting, Libby got up from the couch to go start dinner but after standing, she awkwardly stepped sideways, and nearly passed out as three sets of hands gently guided her back to her seat. A combination of residual chemo drugs and radiation treatments often affected Libby’s balance and rising quickly from a seated position increased those odds.
Even after a diagnosis of cancer, which made us all reevaluate our priorities, it is embarrassing how quickly each one of us became overly busy with life. In fact we all became so preoccupied with our own lives that we had to schedule family nights at our house. This particular night was planned to be a simple meal around the dinner table, but after the light-headed spell subsided, we convinced Libby that riding in the truck to and from St. Elmo and sharing a pizza would probably net us more family time than cooking at home.
Noticing the time and worried that the restaurant would soon close, we hurriedly gathered up to leave. Libby never liked to be rushed when going anywhere, so it she became anxious as I hustled her toward the truck glancing back over her shoulder. “What are looking for? I asked, “I don’t really know, ” Libby answered, “it just feels like I’m leaving something”, then after making one last unsuccessful sweep of the room, we left for the restaurant.
Mr. T’s Pizza is our favorite pizza place located just a few miles from our house in a condensed little area of St. Elmo, TN with several intersecting roads, pedestrians, tourists and restaurants all within walking distance of one another. Libby flipped down the sun visor on her side of the truck as we approached the restaurant so she could check her makeup in the small mirror, a move that always obscured my view out the passenger side of the truck. Then, just seconds into her primping session, we all heard the scream.
I instantly hit the brakes, anticipating air bag deployment and bracing for impact; I was confident we were about to crash, then, after several seconds, during which time no one died, I asked, much louder than was necessary, “WHAT WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?” Libby calmly turned toward me with an awkward, sheepish grin as she flipped her wrist to close the sun visor/mirror combination. Cocking her head to one side and shrugging her shoulders she said in a soft voice, “Now I remember what forgot!”
Still in shock over the scream, angry and confused, I whined, “What did you forget Libby?” She turned her shoulders a full 90 degrees to look straight at me and then Libby struck a pose while pointing to her head in a gesture which was supposed to make it obvious why she was upset. Libby’s eyebrows (okay, what used to be her eyebrows) were raised and her head cocked to one side as if I should be able to guess what was going on without any hints. Dumbfounded, we all three stared at Libby and at one another without venturing a guess as to why she was so upset. Eventually giving in with disgust Libby said, “My hair guys! My hair, I can’t believe none of you noticed! I left my hair at home, I can’t go anywhere looking like this.”
I probably should not have laughed as hard as I did but we had seen her so much without the wig that it never crossed our minds that she had left it. It was so traumatic to Libby that later she equated the experience to the nightmares common in young school-age children who dream of going to school but forget to put on clothes.
The boys and I pulled out all of the stops to convince Libby to go into the restaurant including but not limited to: “Mom you look great. There are only a few cars in the parking lot. No one will know us there,” and finally, “No one else has a hair do like yours”. Hunger pains and a compromise finally convinced her that we had to eat somewhere. The compromise was that we would go to Pizza Hut instead of Mr. T’s because in Libby’s words, “I don’t know anyone who goes to Pizza Hut anymore, but if we go to Mr. T’s we are sure to see someone we know.”
That day was a turning point in Libby’s post cancer treatment life and a huge boost to her self-confidence because the next morning Libby went to church for the first time ever without a wig and she made short hair look awesome.