A woman speaks lovingly to a friend with a bald head

Blood Cancer and the Heart of Gold

In 2020, one of the newly arrived church ladies approached me after the service and said, “You have a nicely shaped head and I wanted to just say ... you really look great bald." It was an awkward way for her to offer me some comfort given my extra shiny dome came about due to weeks of chemotherapy.

Awkward comments

She was not the first to take notice of my new shiny solar panel. And, while the loss of hair is tough on all patients, I also recognized at that moment that for women, the concern over the loss of hair goes far deeper than it does for most men.

What they say to cancer patients

Folks often say the strangest things to cancer patients. I suspect because they really do not know what to say when they meet you.

My comment back to her was “That’s good to know because I did not want to get a head transplant on top of my chemo treatments. We both laughed and for the next few minutes enjoyed a few more clumsy moments as we sipped our cups of coffee.

She had a heart of gold

The conversation slowly changed to other things. Mrs. B was rather new to the church and both she and her husband were embracing the joys of finding a new church. She told me of her many funny experiences welcoming long time regulars as a new door greater on Sunday mornings. If that was not enough, I learned she was also a Eucharistic visitor and had been bringing communion to shut-ins -many of  whom for health reasons or physical limitations could not attend services. She also had started visited nursing homes and  brought food to those who needed extra help and support due to illness or a death in a family. I learned that exercise was a daily routine for her and she made it a mission to follow a healthy diet It appeared that all was going well.

She was diagnosed with blood cancer

In November of 2022 Mrs. B felt a growing tightness in her chest but due to a very busy schedule she put the matter off until after the holidays . Finally in late January of 23 she sought out medical help only to discover the presence several masses in her chest. Some were reported to be the size of golf balls. So often in life the early warning signs of cancer are so easy to ignore or show no symptoms.

Further testing  revealed  the growths were cancerous and the suggested course of action was to have them removed. Chemo followed and but too soon the blood cancer entered her loving “Heart of Gold"  

At the wake the pastor noted how amazed he was at how calmly she prepared herself and family for her journey into the afterlife.

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We will miss her

While we will never know what the future will bring, I wanted to pass on a few things I learned from Mrs. B. First and perhaps the most important lesson is to have a "Heart of Gold" and be kind to those around you. You most likely will never know what unseen trials or pressures other people face daily.

Don't judge someone by their awkward words

Second, try not to judge words of encouragement from well-meaning folks who blurt out some very awkward comments in an attempt to offer you some comfort. Too often when we are facing pain or discomfort due to blood cancer and its many treatments it is very easy to react harshly to kindness.

Lastly since all of us will pass on at some point believing in a  power higher than yourself may offer you a sense of peace when you and your loved ones may need it most.

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