I first met Tami when she was blonde. Fun, easygoing, and cool as hell; it didn’t take long before we got along with the usual small talk, before bonding over making fun of Nelson. I liked her immediately.
Later came Tami the brunette. Still cool, but no, blonde Tami was always my favorite. I guess I’m bias. Damn blondes. But blonde, brunette, pink hair – that’s all trivial, really; utter nonsense in pale comparison to the realization that Tami herself, who is bald now, might not be around anymore.
Bald Tami. Tami with breast cancer. That was hard getting used to. And as the chemotherapy progressed, her body became weaker, the hair kept falling, and just like that, Tami was bald.
At that point, I could not help but feel once again fascinated and baffled by the irony of chemotherapy – treatment that, thankfully, should ultimately help, but which side effects only further robs you of your own lifestyle, your autonomy, and of course, your hair. And for a woman, it is hair that she has toyed with and brushed and combed and cherished since she was a little girl, as if having cancer wasn’t enough to mock her for her misfortune.
But who the hell am I to say, when Tami is the one who has to deal with the pain, has to make the sacrifices, watching every little detail of what she eats and does. To see your friend have to struggle just for another tomorrow, all with an uncertainty and a sense of living on borrowed time – so really, there is nothing I can describe that could ever fathom what Tami has had to go through.
But if I am segueing towards a sob story, then I have to regress. Most cancer stories are sad; sad stories we tend to avoid, sad stories without a happy ending, and that’s the honest truth.
But as for Tami’s story, it’s far from over. It’s still going, as many of ours are. It is not a cancer story. Because if you saw her today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything sad about her. She just won’t let you.
You could say adversity builds character, but I feel more than anything, it reveals it. And Tami, she’s as tough as nails. She might not have breasts at the moment, but she sure hell has bigger balls than most of us.
She has her days, she says, and I don’t doubt it. We all have our bad days – those days we get a parking ticket, or those days we drop our phone on the pavement. Bad days, I’m sure.
So yes, she has her days, but it’s tough for me to believe her when all I see is her smiling, taking solace in the “little things,” as she puts it, still being good to her people. She’s not giving any reason to feel sorry for her, not letting the cancer define her. Because she is better than that, better than being a sob story, better than simply being a bald girl with cancer.
When it comes down to it, though, this is all unfair. It is unfair to Tami, to her family, to anyone who has had cancer affect their lives and their loved ones. But don’t let the world beat you up, because it will – it will throw everything at you, when you least expect it, when you’re most vulnerable – from everything that is in and out of your control, from cancer, to people, your own friends, even, may get to you. And the world will make sure of that. But it hasn’t for Tami; it has not got the better of her. She is a testament to that.
So what has changed about Tami? Nothing, nothing at all. Her hair, perhaps. But she is still fun, still easygoing, still cool as hell. She’s still smiling. And when this is all over, when her hair grows back, when this difficult time in her life, her story, comes to pass, it’ll be nothing more but another rough chapter she overcame, leaving us all the more impressed. I just hope she goes back to being blonde.