This is a guest post from Victoria Jackson, author, ukulele player, and former comedian for six seasons on Saturday Night Live. In episode 43 of the BoldIdea podcast, she talked about the importance of having laughter in tough times.
Living with the knowledge that you had cancer and that it may return is like living with lavender hair; everything is the same yet different.
You walk around, do the same chores and hobbies, but people look at you differently. Your friends, family, and doctors have a little glint in their eye. They are thinking you could die soon—this may be your last Christmas together, your second-to-last birthday. Your medical chart has a box checked where it used to say none with a squiggly line from top to bottom. You are vulnerable. You are human. You are not indestructible. You have an expiration date.
You look in the mirror in the bathroom and you look the same. But there are scars across your chest. You are deformed. Nothing a nice baggy shirt couldn’t hide, or a prosthesis. A prosthesis! When did that word enter my vocabulary?
You can still wear your favorite date-night outfit, but you know and your husband knows—and maybe everybody knows—that under the alluring dress is a mangled car accident of a chest. I had always been taught the Bible instructs women to be modest. So there’s one good thing breast cancer did to me—made me modest. It also made me humble.
While I was going through chemo last year, I noticed a lot of young, healthy women with their hair dyed this grayish/lavender color. Interesting. As I tried to find a look for my suddenly bald head that would suit my personality (options including gypsy fortune teller scarf, baseball cap, coiffed Country Club lady curly wig, Raggedy Ann red yarn wig, hot pink wig, afro), I seemed to be drawn to the grayish/lavender wig the most. Maybe I desperately wanted to look cool instead of cancerous. After chemo, when my hair grew back in, it was gray! Who knew?! I’d dyed it blonde my whole life. My friend Judy said, “It’s not gray, it’s lavender!” My husband nodded, quick to make me feel prettier. So I wrote a ukulele song called “Lavender Hair” and wrote a devotional called Lavender Hair, which I’m hoping will encourage and inspire other women and families who are going through cancer treatment.
Despite the discomfort of surgery, chemo and radiation, I still think that cancer’s not so bad. There are worse things. Looking back, cancer was an amazing adventure, thanks to Jesus who carried me and my husband through it. I’m also thankful to the wonderful staff at the Vanderbilt Breast Clinic, the Pretty in Pink store, and that observant nurse, Gordon, who first detected my cancer at the Spring Hill Walk-in Clinic when I had simply walked in for a cure to my cough and casually mentioned a numb spot near my under arm. He sent me immediately to Vanderbilt.
Amidst all the appointments, check ups, blood tests, and at home in my bed recovering. the one constant was my Bible. Since I learned to read at age 6, I have studied the Bible. I even went to Florida Bible College for a year. The verse that kept popping into my head throughout my cancer year was Phillipians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” It’s a win/win if you know the Lord.
God’s Word is the truth I run to for comfort and Jesus is my hope for the future. He is my Healer, and one day I’ll see Him face to face.