Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tins and an old friend

A friend and co-worker (volunteer) where I work, showed up at my office with a big, pretty tin. Inside was several items that she clearly spent a great deal of time thinking about and finding. I want to share them here because she had no idea that on that morning, I was feeling so very, very low. When I opened the tin, my spirits were lifted, I needed that moment more than I would have thought. She gave me several beautiful books - even "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pauch; a Tetris game; a dream catcher; an eye mask (to shut the world out); an awesome little teddy bear who plays music and his wings move; ginger snaps, and many more amazing gifts. I was overwhelmed at that very moment, and so appreciative. Thank you, Harriet, you never cease to amaze me and your kindness will be remembered always.

Thank you, Jesus for sending me all the beautiful angels in my life.

Well, that is it. As of midnight last night, I said goodbye to the last of my lifelong friend, my hair. It sheltered me from the cold, put up with kids and hair dyes, and even got me a few dates through the years! ha....Adios Amiga....

Last night, Kyle, Rosie, and I stood in the bathroom and they shaved the rest of it off. I could no longer take the aching associated with the effects of the chemo on what was left of my hair. It constantly felt like someone was pulling it out piece by piece at the root. Additionally, it was falling out so fast that I was finding it on the floor, on my pillow, and on my clothes - everywhere! And it itched as it dropped down my off with it!! I'm not even remotely excited about the "new do" but at least it will grow back one day and until then, I hope to be able to rest at night without that aching feeling. Physics - shall we discuss that for a moment? You are so wonderful to offer the kind words, and I know it will grow back, but you may look at it and think, its only a few months, but for me personally, I can tell you already that each day feels like a month.

Today, I was educated in what it felt like to be "different". Some people looked at me and smiled, while others looked and quickly turned away as if thinking, "If I don't look at her, it/she doesn't exist". It being the cancer of course. I intentionally wore my "Fight Like a Girl" shirt today because I had on a pink turban. I had no idea how many eyes were on me until one older woman said, "I love pink, its very flattering". As I thanked her, I looked around and yep, sure enough, others were staring, but they would not meet my gaze. And so I looked down, and away.... I would like to think that it was because people don't know what to do or say, and as they turned away, I caught myself looking down - as if I were not good enough........Uh, what?? Hello, not happening, at least not a second time. Not because it was me, but because when I am out there, I need to serve as.....I don't know - an Ambassador or something for women with breast cancer. People need to be educated. Ladies get your mammograms! Take control of YOUR situation and your life.

I have found so many things that need to be addressed. First, cancer affects everyone around the cancer patient; at home, at work, in public. Why is it that insurance companies pay for non-vital things such as Viagra, yet they don't play fair with vital follow on care and reconstruction a woman needs after having a mastectomy. Medicaid may pay for basic reconstruction, but not symmetry so the breasts are somewhat similar. Although the Women's Rights and Cancer Act of 1997 made coverage mandatory, many insurance companies still fight charges. And every single day, when a woman is fighting with her insurance company to help her cover expenses that should be a given, she should actually be resting and taking care of her body. I can tell you without hesitation that mastectomy's are very traumatic. According to Dr. Richard Dowden, Cleveland, OH, states on his webpage, "You must be aware that many insurance companies try to get out of coverage for that situation any way they can, usually by tricky wording in the contract or by blatlantly disregarding the AMA guidelines. And even if they do assist with the costs, the insurer will not likely help with the expense of putting new implants in." (

For centuries, women have been raised to take pride in their appearance, and nurse their babies at their breast, yet, when a horrible disease like breast cancer strikes, the answer is "We're sorry, we can't help you". Someone needs to take a stand to help others who follow behind us. Doctors and nurses are diligently doing what they can to help, but patients need another voice - yours, mine, and so many more. I hope that each of you reading this will consider taking the time to write your insurance companies, Senators and Congressmen. Petition them to bring this issue to light and to change the laws. That way, our daughters, and their daughters, and their daughters, will never be left feeling like they are only half of a woman.


  1. Arla, I am so proud of you.... you are a miraculous women. I know loosing your hair is devastating but you have done this on your own terms for the most part and it will grow back better and stronger than before. DON'T HANG YOUR HEAD FOR ANYONE....I believe people just don't know what to say or do!!! You are always in my thoughts and prayers. Keep up the fight. Please let me know if you should need anything. Your Friend, Donna

  2. Arla, I saw this in our daily news and thought of you...... I wanted to share it.

    "When we are no longer able to change a situation,
    we are challenged to change ourselves."
    --Victor Frankl

  3. Arla, I just love coming to your office and listening to your stories. Although most are very serious you always have a way to lighten the mood and hope I can make you laugh once in a while. :-) (By the way, I never asked, but I hope it don't hurt to laugh? ) I can honestly say that your spirit is infectous!! I'm sure for everyone who speaks with you as well as myself. I feel priveledged to be your friend and honored that you have shared so many thoughts and pictures with me. When you told me you were ready to cut your hair, I was shocked. As you know, until you showed me how fragile it was I thought it looked great!! I guess it's one of those guy things? DUH :-)
    But as you said it will eventually grow back, even though everyday seems like a month. Knowing you, I am sure your hair is fighting as hard as you .... out of pure fear!!! LOL
    You hang in there my friend, as I said before ... flying colors !!! My prayers are with you always!!


  4. Wow - thank you for your comments. Donna - I think that is one of the finest quotes I've ever heard. And I'll tell you, it certainly fits this situation. Terry - thank God for friends like you who help me laugh each day. I have my moments and it's all of your thoughts and smiles that lift me up.

  5. I love that t-shirt: Fight like a girl. That's great.

  6. Fight like a girl. You should have had that T shirt years ago, because you've always have had that great spirit in you to fight for what is right and what you believe in. And hair or no hair - you are still beautiful. It's a shame people look away, or just stare with no words. Seems like people today would learn to accept someone that my look "different"...even if it's just for a while (like you having no hair). But some people just either have no compassion, or they have compassion but are afraid to approach the person. I LOVE YOU ANY WAY YOU ARE, LOVE, ETC. I've been meaning to call you but just haven't had the chance...just wanted to say you are always in my thoughts and prayers and I love you very much.