With that simple interchange, I realized that all the hard work of creating and producing a book, and yes, the experience of having cancer as a 33-year-old young mother had translated into something transformative. I realized that I had become an author.
Life is like that. You get dealt a crappy hand, and in the moment, you feel as if the world has conspired to bring you to your knees. You might even feel that way for a long time, actually. But eventually, at some point, you will come up for air and realize that yes, indeed, you can breathe. And when you can breathe, you begin to wonder if there is something that can come out of the shit show you have just endured.
It might be a new-found strength. Or an appreciation of things that make you laugh. It might be the love of time. Or a burning desire to Do Something with your life.
I am a writer, and so I used words to Do Something.
That something turned into Nowhere Hair, a children’s book that helps explain a loved one’s cancer diagnosis to little kids. My son, Hans, was just a smidgen over one year old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I was spared having to explain all the craziness to him. But I did come in contact with lots of children in my days as a bald mother, and their stares and confusing glances told me that they didn’t understand. That they were scared.
The book that emerged is upbeat yet honest, as I wished to paint a cancer diagnosis as not the end of the world, but something that is approached with dignity and (hopefully) some style. Edith Buenen, a fashion illustrator from The Netherlands, is the primary reason the book has such a positive feel. Even in the pages that talk about the hardest things (“It makes me scared that she is sick. I want her well right now. She says, “Be patient, little one.” That seems so hard somehow.”), her pictures are lyrical and calming. Yes indeed, mommy is cranky sometimes and wiped out and on the couch. But she is still a mommy first and foremost, filled with love for children. The book explains that children can’t catch cancer, and didn’t cause it to happen. It ends with the universal message that what is inside of us matters far more than how we look on the outside.
Sue Greim Glader is a mother and author living in Mill Valley, California. Nowhere Hair is available from her website, at www.NowhereHair.com. Join Nowhere Hair’s Beautifully Bald Initiative at facebook.com/NowhereHair. Her blog, Poking Around Life, can be read at www.SueGlader.wordpress.com.