A week or two ago a friend of mine, Jenn, posted on Facebook about a party for one of her friends, Ruby. I was intrigued and asked for more information. She told me that Ruby was recently diagnosed with cancer and her parents were throwing her a head-shaving party, which they cleaverly titled "Shear Solidarity: A Fun(d) Razor for Ruby." I thought, "What a great idea," and marked it on my calendar. Even though I wasn't ready to shave my head and didn't have any money to give (I'm still trying to figure out my own medical bills), I thought it might be nice to go to the party to share my support of the cause.
Then, on one of those sleepless nights recently, I started to think about the event and what I could do to really show my support and I immediately knew I would cut my hair off. I mean, why not? I complain about all the energy it takes to maintain my hair and have wanted a more carefree hairstyle. I really don't understand why I was so apprehensive about cutting it. So, instead of getting it professionally braided, I'd cut it all off.
Honestly, though I'd been looking forward to the party, I was also a little hesitant about it. I've never been to a head-shaving party and wasn't sure what the mood would be like. Would it be a somber event where we each trudge up for our chance in the chair after waving at poor little Ruby lounging in her seat? Or would it be one of those parties where the reason for the gathering is the big elephant in the room and everyone tiptoes around hoping not to break one of the metaphorical eggshells?
To my delight, it was neither. Ruby's party was the hightlight of my week, maybe even my month. Everyone there was so full of joy and happiness. When I met Ruby, the first thing I noticed was her big smile and pretty blue eyes. She was sitting in a red wagon, but that only lasted for a few minutes. Once she arrived to the park, she was up and running around just like all the other kids and not missing a beat when it came to being a kid. It was fantastic. And then I met her parents, Mars and Ben. Mars is one of those women who walks into the room and everyone smiles. She radiates enthusiasm and sunshine. Seriously, when I met her I did one of those goofy smiles that makes people think I've just taken pain medication. Her dad was such a great guy, too. He was charming and made me feel right at home with him and his friends and family. I love that feeling.
Mars was the first to get her hair cut. She'd parted her red hair into tiny little ponytails and allowed everyone who'd donated the opportunity to cut one off. As each lock of hair was chopped off by the party guests, Mars cheered them on. By the time it was my turn to get cut, I was pumped. After watching Mars celebrate her hair being methodically chopped off and then shaved to the scalp, I couldn't squirm about mine. I hopped right into the chair and sat still as my shoulder length hair was whacked off in preparation for the clippers. No second thoughts.
Now that I'm home and Nilaja has had a chance to rub her hand over it and offer her approval, I have to tell you that I am so glad I went and even happier that I cut my hair off for Ruby. I think I would have been happy I did it no matter what, but doing it for a great family was an added bonus. They are such good people and I think they are handling their situation with strength and grace. I don't know what it's like to have cancer or a close family member with cancer, but I do know what it's like to have a chronic illness. And while it's not fun and games all the time, it does make the days go faster if you take a few moments to laugh. I only spent a few hours with them, but I know that over the 2 1/2 years that Ruby will be having daily chemo therapy treatments, there will be tons of laughter. And when this is all over, when Ruby beats this, the laughter will continue.
I may have just met Ruby and her family, but I hope there will be more occasions for me to share their joy. In just 4 hours, they taught me more about living happily with chronic illness than I've learned in 5 months. These are lessons I'll never forget.
(Here are a few pictures that were taken after a shower, which means no makeup.)
The family is still accepting donations. If you'd like to help Mars and Ben pay for Ruby's care, please visit this website they have set up. You can also find more information about Ruby and her family there.