The most wonderful time of the year
By Holly Boyce
It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the time the world is blanketed in white and colored lights fill the streets. Sugar plums are dancing in the heads of children and cheer is running wild through the streets. Christmas 2009 was upon us. It really was the most wonderful time of the year…well, at least that is what we thought.
That Christmas I got the brand new snowboard that I had been dreaming about. It was the cute pink and white one from the store that I had been eyeballing since last ski season. I also received another gift a few days early - Cancer. Yep, my 2009 Christmas gift was a big, fat breast cancer diagnosis. I was 30 years old and the mother of 6- and 3-year olds. I accidentally found a large lump on my breast when I was adjusting my clothing on Thanksgiving Day. By Christmas I was in for the first of 3 surgeries. I was pretty calm, actually. I was told over and over that it was probably nothing. Is that everyone's way of making you feel better? I wondered, but decided to just remove the mass and find out when it came out whether or not it was cancer. I was pretty medicated after the surgery and kept asking for Days of our Lives' Dr. Jonas and if that Sammi Brady switched my test results again. I later found out that she didn't and I did indeed have cancer.
What seemed like an eternity passed from the initial surgery to me finding out anything except the words YOU HAVE CANCER. In one of my post surgery MRI's they found another mass. It had only been a week. That is when the fear kicked in. I found out shortly after the next mass removal that the mass was not cancerous. Finally, it was something to be happy about. The plan was made and because of the aggressiveness and my age, a nice aggressive plan was made. It included 5 months of chemo treatments, 6½ weeks of radiation, and then 5 years of a hormone-blocking medication.
Many people would call and ask how I was doing. They asked, "How does it hit you when you get that kind of news?" I would just say, "I went skydiving, rocky mountain climbing, 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu." Oh wait, that's a song! So that's what I did. I wrote on a blog and entertained anyone who wanted to read with daily humors of having cancer. It was great. I loved it when I got responses from people saying that the post made their day. In the beginning it was to get more sleep, but it quickly became cheaper than therapy sessions. I felt like my insurance company deserved a break from paying for things.
I decided to be different. My whole life I've never fit into a traditional mold of people. I tried, believe me, but it just wasn't me. I decided to be the "best cancer patient the world had ever seen." I wore shirts that said "Bald is the New Blond," "Chemo Princess," and "Does this shirt make my head look bald?" I loved making everyone laugh at what was happening to me, rather than watching them cry and feel sorry for me. The more I wrote about the good things about having cancer, the better physically I felt. There were days I wasn't pumping sunshine. But, those days I usually felt sicker. I started to recognize the correlation very early with my attitude and my health.
I wore wigs; some were really nice. I also wore old Halloween wigs to throw people off the whole bald thing. I hated being bald, but decided that I would be happy that I was saving so much money in hair products instead. I asked my friend who owned Andrea Starr Photography if she would be interested in doing a Bald Woman photo shoot. I thought it would be nice to capture these memories, so when my hair did return I could be thankful that I wasn't still bald. I was kind of stripped of all things that we think make us beautiful (full of scars, the lack of hair, and sickly looking complexion). What happened was amazing. Just as the army breaks you down to the core, I, too, was stripped down to just ME. We are who we are at the end of the day and having all or none of those things didn't matter. The photo shoot was to commemorate that moment and that revelation.
My sister, a professional make up artist with her own business, treated me to the most beautiful make-up that I have ever had. It was uncomfortable because I rarely went bald out in public and my hair was just beginning to come back patchy. When I saw the pictures a few days later I was in awe. I felt for the first time in my life that I had a picture that captured ME! I wanted everyone that had to fight this disease to be able to feel the same way and at that moment the concept of the calendar was born.
While finishing my treatments I decided that I was again going to do more. I would give back. I decided that there were some holes in services and I was just the one to fill them. I started a blog called Think Pink. My six year old was staring at me while I was typing one day. He proceeded to tell me that "Think Pink" was not a cool name and was kind of dumb. So I sarcastically responded with a "Well what do you think it should be called then, dear." He paused and looked at me and in his lowest voice said, "The Bald Woman." The two of us broke out into laughter for 10 minutes. When he left the room I realized that was it! Thanks to a 6-year-old mind, Friends of the Bald Woman, a non-profit, began.
Friends of the Bald Woman is putting together an inspirational calendar as a fundraiser. The calendar will showcase 12 amazing stories of hope and inspiration. Each woman is different in age, stage, and treatment. Yet there is the commonality of the extreme strength that these ladies display every day that they are allowed to open their eyes. Cancer affects our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, children, and friends. These women are those things to someone and the inspiration they provide to other women is unmatched.
Calendars are set to go on sale by October. They can be purchased through our website www.friendsofthebladwoman.com or get more information through our Facebook: Friends of the Bald Woman.
It has almost been 1 year since my treatment has ended and each check-up has its anxiety filled days. But "you don't know how strong you are till strong is your only option!" They say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but for me……they are all wonderful days!
Holly Boyce is The Bald Woman. She is a cancer survivor since mid August 2010! It's her hope that someone who has cancer will read this and see that "Life has it's ups and downs, and it is how we choose to deal with them that makes us who we are!" (her quote by the way) She founded Friend of the Bald Woman in an effort to give back. She still blogs on www.thinkpink-holly.blogspot.com hoping to make someone else's treatment just a little better and a lot happier.
En La Cocina: Coquito, Puerto Rican Eggnog
Mike Gonzalez, Host of En La Cocina and our own KXLY ABC evening news anchor explains, "Christmas is not truly Puerto Rican without coquito. This refreshing drink spiked with rum is even more delicious than its American version. Coquioto is a perfect drink for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's tasty and sure to make everything more relaxing, even dealing with the inlaws :). I must say I'm partial to anything Puerto Rican. I grew up with Puerto Rican food and drinks my entire life. I can remember my Grandmother Petra whipping up some coquito during the holidays. No wonder our family gatherings were so much fun. Enjoy!"
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