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Vanity and Friendship

I have always wondered why the significant lessons in life are those learned the hard way. Through turmoil and strife, the wisdom arrives, wrapped in a pretty package. It is the prize for the heartache, the assurance that there is a reason for everything. I have to believe that to be true.

I could write several blog posts about the insight, the understanding that didn’t exist just a month ago. And perhaps I will. I have no doubt that my awareness will change as I become more enlightened. Enlightened. I like that word. It sounds important.

But that will come later. This is a post about vanity and friendship. They seem like rather incongruous concepts, but I promise I am going somewhere with this.

I know that cancer is an ugly diagnosis, especially for women. We lose our hair, which even God Himself called “a crowning glory.” The skin gets lax from loss of muscle tone and rapid weight loss. Pumping poison into one’s body to kill the demon is bound to have consequences. Nasty ones. (Wonder how readable these posts will be when I get chemo brain?)

I have a friend who has been there for me since the day of my diagnosis. She immediately rushed over when I called with a six pack of beer and a box of Kleenex. We cried together. When there were no more tears, we vowed to be strong for each other. The next day, she took me out in my kayak and offered to tow me if I got tired. The lake is a special to us for so many reasons. She sends me texts throughout the day just to check on me, to remind me that I am loved. And we often sit and laugh about the absurdity of life, this rotten hand that I have been dealt. In spite of the fear and anxiety, laughter helps. A lot.

Last week I ordered a wig. I was always one to be prepared, although I think the current word is “proactive.” I went through the online choices and read the reviews. Human hair wigs are crazy expensive, so I settled for the synthetic kind that is far too shiny to be believable. I tell myself to remember not to get too close to an open flame when I wear it. The one I chose reminds me of Farrah Fawcett back when she posed for the famous poster (much to the delight of teenage boys all over the world.) For a moment, I had forgotten that she died of cancer. I wish Mr. Irony with his wacky sense of humor would stop following me around.

I immediately texted my friend with the news of my purchase. And I added, “I wish I could remember what I look like now before the battle begins, and I turn into Medusa.”

She called. “Find two cute outfits. I will come and get you Wednesday, and we are going to have a photography session.” This is what she does. She is a pro. I am thrilled.

And so, on Wednesday morning, I flatironed my hair, paid careful attention to my makeup, and squeezed my big belly into a dress. And off we went. I gasped when she parked in front of a field of sunflowers, acres and acres of yellow, their faces upturned to God. I posed and smiled and forgot about what lies ahead. We explored a historical site with old buildings and visited a covered bridge that is at least a century old. And at each stop, she carefully adjusted the exposure and lighting so that I would look my best. Finally, we ended up downtown, and I stood grinning in front of an old door to an ancient building, the perfect backdrop for those last shots.

When it was done, we shared a basket of chicken wings and drank beer. (Against doctor’s orders for me, but what the heck? That’s how we roll.) We talked and laughed and looked at the photos.

And two days later, she delivered the finished product to me, a lovely reminder of the way I am now, in spite of what the future holds.

I share these with you here. They are a testament to the love and care that comes from true friendship. Did I mention how blessed I am? The angels indeed appear when you need them most, don't they?

She is prepared to document this process in pictures. We have talked about turning it into a book. And the writer in me hopes it is one with a happy ending. Truly.

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