Bald and Bold

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Beatrice glanced at the time on her laptop, counting down the remaining minutes before she could finally leave the office and go straight to meet her mom. At that very moment, her mother was sitting on a comfortable La-Z-Boy-like couch – a needle pinned into her veins at one hand. The other hand, she imagined, must be busy scrolling through the screen of her iPad, checking Facebook and watching videos of cute cats performing.

Her mother was currently undergoing the last of her six-cycle chemotherapy sessions following a single mastectomy. Every two weeks for the last three months, she would head to a cancer institute in the city for her treatment. Always the tough woman that she was, she would boldly

face the day without self-pity, never whining. She would only ask Beatrice to check if her mobile wi-fi was working properly. She’d have to find a way to entertain herself; it was a five-hour session after all.

Beatrice always admired how her mother appeared to be even healthier than people who didn’t have any illness. She always still dressed fashionably, her scarves, hats, and wigs stylishly covering her now bald head from the chemotherapy sessions. Her sharp wit and great sense of humor remained, and the stories she shared everyday did not just revolve around her serious ordeal. She still cared so much about how the members of the family were doing.

To Beatrice, her mother’s chemotherapy was like a follow-up TV series to a hit movie, the movie being the mastectomy. It was much less worrying but still as grueling. When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family all agreed that surgery was the only next step to be taken. Her mom was, of course, the one to ultimately decide. Beatrice remembered her say that at her age she didn’t really need two breasts anymore.

The discovery of her mother’s illness was gradual. It started with the appearance of breast lumps, which had to be analyzed. It didn’t shock Beatrice outright, but got her very scared just the same. She consoled herself, in a way, on the fact that the test result could go either way – positive or negative. Also, waiting for the result to come out gave Beatrice time to prepare herself for whichever way it would turn out to be.

Ironically, for the past couple of years, Beatrice had been actively participating in the “Pink October” movement during the Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She would wake up at dawn for the annual Moonwalk, shop at special Think-Pink booths at the mall, and at one point even went with a team of medical practitioners to raise awareness about breast cancer in remote areas. Never did she imagine that she would one day be confronted with the disease face-to-face.

Breast cancer is a rising issue that many women battle around the world today. In Asia, the Philippines registers the highest incidence rate of breast cancer, with 1 out of 13 Filipinas to develop breast cancer in her lifetime. But, often, it’s something that feels remotely possible to happen to a loved one or close relative – until it strikes us right in the face.

Media, in all forms, does not fail in reminding women of the importance of early detection. The public – women especially – are constantly told to spend a few minutes every day to monitor any lumps in the breasts. Sadly, people would rather spend time snooping on other people’s lives in social media than check on themselves.

If there is one thing that Beatrice is thankful for amidst the unwelcome twist of fate, it is that her mom’s condition was detected early. Though it always breaks her heart every time she sees her mother’s energy wear off for days after each chemo session, she has remained optimistic. She’s certain that, just as how her mom’s hair would grow again from the chemo-induced baldness, she would also recover completely from the physical and emotional hurts that breast cancer brings.

It’s good enough that Beatrice’s mother remains bold, even when she’s bald. Such boldness fuels the family’s hope that one day she will shine once more as the healthy woman who would not let cancer – or any illness for that matter – bring her down. ♥

* This article first appeared in The Philippine Star.

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