On Feb 28, 2020 I had a truly unbelievable experience: I made a sign asking my favorite baseball Player on the San Diego Padres to sign my newly bald Chemo head AND HE DID! The idea came when I realized my bald head was basically a ball. A baseball. And baseballs get signed.
Losing your hair to chemo is a defeating, helpless feeling. Most of cancer is. You make choices controlled by a disease scarier that you can imagine no matter what stage you are at. There is never a time when fear isn’t a part of your day to day. But also, under all that fear and unknown I keep finding hope. Even when you have to make it yourself sometimes.
After getting Fernando Tatis Jrs’. signature my whole being was overwhelmed. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins as the crowd around me trying to get their own signatures grew. I made eye-contact with my boyfriend Jesse, made my way back to our group and the emotions flooded through me. Excitement over what had happened, thankfulness that I was healthy enough to be there, and then weirdly that fear. At one point I turned to Jesse and said “I don’t want to die.” He laughed a surprised giggle then realized I was being serious and hugged me as my eyes filled with tears. I was just so happy to be there. To be alive.
And that’s when that hope snuck its lovely way back in.
I HAD JUST GOT MY HEAD SIGNED. I was with people who truly love me. I got to go on a little hike and show the kids “hiking legs, “I got to help my honorary 4 year old nephew get baseball signatures at his first baseball game, I got to see Jesse’s nephew be the “play ball” kid and conquer his initial fear when they asked him, I got to sign our honorary two-year old nieces little head when she wanted to be like me, we made it on the kiss cam, and I was going to get to tell my family the sign had worked.
Hope hopey hope hope!
Then as we were leaving an older gentleman stopped me to ask if he could give me a side hug and shared he was a 7-year cancer survivor himself. He told me he loved what I did that night. I thanked him for the inspiration. Told him I couldn’t wait to get where he was. I wish I had gotten a picture with him too or could somehow be reconnected to hear more of his story. But his words of encouragement tore me open again and I couldn’t stop the tears as we left hiding my head in Jesse’s shoulder as we walked out. It was too much.
How many other cancer survivors, current cancer fighters, and loved ones of cancer fighters were in that ballpark? Or in the comments section of the Instagram and Twitter posts that were starting to flood our phones? CANCER IS TOO MUCH!
Nothing could have prepared me for the response it received on social media. Reading the comments was unbelievably heartwarming and most of them were positive. Yes, there are some that aren’t meant in kindness but there are a lot more that are so authentically genuine. There are also a lot of humorous ones that made me laugh because I keep humor in the forefront of cancer as much as I can. And although a lot are in Spanish which I sadly know very little of and try and translate if I can, it just highlights how cancer impacts our entire world.
I barely slept that night. My mind wouldn’t stop racing about the growing attention my sign and story was receiving. My notifications kept growing. It made it on ESPN. I had been interviewed before the signature (note: if someone interviews you get their information…still no clue who) and I kept thinking of my final answer when whoever it was asked if I wanted to say anything else I immediately said hi to my dad, my original Padres teacher, the man who still listens to Padres radio while at a live game, who raised us loving Padres blue in a Northern California town filled with Orange and Black, and told him I loved him.
I can report that I DID NOT wash my head that night. But I am sad to also report that when I told myself I would sleep on the idea of getting the signature tattooed on my head (it really isnt safe for chemo patients to get cut during chemo and I wanted to ask my oncologist at today’s appointment), my pillow and the hormone therapy (oh yes, I’m on that too) night sweats took that choice away from me. Also, your head is really oily naturally so that didn’t help. Luckily we, and about 1,000,000 social media users have photographic evidence of this epic night in my cancer life. Now who do I talk to at Sharpie about this?
Those pens should really come with a chemo-head-signature “not so permanent “ warning.
The wheels in my head have not stopped turning, and I’m working on a way to keep this momentum going and maybe, just maybe, do more to spread the hope I’m lucky I keep being able to find. Just give me one more night because I had Chemo #2 today and I’m feeling a little tired!