Mom, Look Again


{April 29, 2015}

She’s a 42-year-old, brown-eyed, petite woman. She wears mascara about once a year,

yet her eyelashes always brush against her glasses. She has faint freckles sprinkled across her button nose. When she laughs, which is her usual response to almost anything, her eyes shut tightly, her nose scrunches up and her laugh saturates the entire room. At 5 ’2”, my mother is a tiny woman, but somehow she always manages to make her arms seem like the most vast place on earth.

Today, my mother Veronica is hairless.

Just a month ago, my mom’s dark brown hair rested on her shoulders. She usually kept it pulled back behind her ears or secured in a headband, but after breast cancer made its way into her body she found herself letting go of her shiny brown locks.

***

Hair: one of the trickiest things a woman deals with. We love it. We hate it. If it’s curly,

we want it straight. If it’s straight, we want it curly. Getting a haircut rarely goes “wonderfully”, and it’s usually followed by, “I hate it.” You've probably heard the verse:

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." -Psalm 139:14

But in absolute honesty, how often does our soul actually know that very well?

For me, this past year was marked with a struggle to find beauty and joy through an emotional journey through breast cancer. But God left His even more powerful mark on my heart, helping me understand how He sees my mom, how He sees me, and how He sees all of creation.

***

The following is the news my mom's oncologist delivered to us over a year ago:

It is stage III breast cancer, stemming from a five-centimeter tumor and spread into two lymph nodes. She has to undergo 15 weeks of chemotherapy: one chemo session every three weeks for a total of six treatments. When she finishes chemo, she will go through six and a half weeks of radiotherapy, every day, Monday through Friday.

This is how he breaks it down:

Week one: Energy will decrease about 20%. You may experience some nausea.

Week Two: Your immune system will begin to weaken. Eat your veggies. Stay away from sick people.

Week Three: Your hair will fall out.

“When you notice the first clump fall out, I usually tell my patients to just go ahead and

shave it off because it is much more traumatizing to see it fall out in big pieces- on your

clothing…on your pillow…in the shower,” Dr. Li says.

She tries hard to hold back tears, but the emotion is too strong, and as she looks away, it’s clear that she can’t contain them. Up until this point, she bears her cancer scars beneath her clothes. It is the first time she realizes that she will have no control over her hair loss. Losing her hair is the initial symbol of cancer others will notice. I know it is the first time she is thinking about how others will perceive her, and how she will see herself.

Amidst her cancer, the roles were switched and nobody was there to offer the rules: “Okay, this is what you should say. Here is how you should respond.”

When tears first welled up in her eyes after hearing she would lose her hair, I tried to embrace my delicate mom in my arms. I tried to steady my voice and attempted to conjure up unbroken words: “It’s going to be okay. It’s just hair. It doesn’t change who you are, and it will grow back!”

***

About two weeks after my mom decided to shave her hair off, she stood in the kitchen cooking something that, even in its early stages, already smelled delicious. I walked into the living room and passed my embarrassing sixth grade photograph for the thousandth time.

“Mom, can we please finally move this picture somewhere else? It’s a terrible picture of

me! Look at the braces! And look how frizzy my hair was!!”

Within two seconds, something snapped in my mom.

“Stop. If you take that down, I’m going to be so mad at you. You look beautiful in that

picture,” she said sternly.

I replied: “Mom..........…it’s not a good picture.”

“Yes it is! You look great there! I don’t look good. You think I feel beautiful now?! I don’t care how many people tell me I look beautiful. I know I don’t! I do not look good without my hair and this wig. It’s a lie!”

I walked over quickly, turned off the stove, and grabbed her by the hand: “Come with me.”

I turned on the lights in my bedroom and stood with her in front of the mirror: “Look at you. You are beautiful.”

She stared for approximately three seconds and then she shifted her eyes down, away from her reflection.

“Look up. Look at yourself.”

She stared into her own eyes, this time for 10 seconds, but she looked down again and

began to cry.

“Mom, look again.”

She moved her glance up. Her skin smooth, her cheeks a peach rose. Her lips glimmered

from her coral lipstick.

“...You're right! It doesn't matter what people think of your appearance. It doesn't matter how many people tell you how beautiful you look. You need to see yourself as beautiful, but more importantly, you need to know that God looks at you and says that you are beautiful."

She looked at me, and the widest smile spread across her face.

“I AM BEAUTIFUL!” she exclaimed.

I wonder how many times my mom probably told me I was beautiful growing up- even when I had a bowl cut (lol, yes...this really happened). Let's be real, she still tells me that. I can always count on her to post a photo of me with the caption "Princess" (thanks mom!!!).

And guess what's even more praise-worthy!

GOD- Creator of the Universe, Author of my life, and King of Kings has adopted me as His daughter. He calls me beloved. As believers, we are "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." -Romans 8:17.

And that is beautiful to me.

And this is the marvel of marvels, that He called me beloved. -C.S. Lewis

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