Friday, May 28, 2010

A brush with treasure

I am not sure when it started but from the time my son Cathal was about one he used to get a hairbrush and go around brushing his hair and then my hair. At the time I had long, thick hair and it used to kill me as the hairbrush would get stuck in all sorts of tangles and it would end up just hanging there in some part of my mop.

As he got older he used to watch me doing Emma's hair, adding clips to it as I got her ready for school in the morning. When he was about two year's of age he began to add the clips after he brushed my hair. Most of the time the clips would be stuck in my head rather than my hair and there would be a lot of ouch and aagh coming from me.

I think it used to soothe him to sit behind me on the couch, brushing my hair, while we watched telly.

In June 2007 I lost all my hair as a result of chemo I received as part of cancer treatment. My hair had thinned considerably and I had a bald batch, so I decided one Friday it had to go. While the kids were at school I shaved what was left of my hair.

I collected Cathal from his creche and Emma from school, wearing a hat to hide what I had done. I had tried my best to prepare them and I was able to show Emma (aged 9) and sort of have a laugh with her.

I was more concerned about how Cathal would feel. He didn't know I had cancer - cancer would not mean much anyway to a two-year old. I had told him that my hair would fall out because of some special Mammy medicine I was on. He would shrug and just run off again and play.

On the day of the reveal I sat him down at the table and we had a drink each. I told him that my hair was gone and I asked him if he wanted to see. He nodded and I took my hat off. He looked and me and said: 'put your hat back on Mammy'.

That was that. No tears. No look of shock or horror. He went off about his business.

The following night we were all sitting down in the living room, watching TV. Cathal came in with a hairbrush in his hand and said: 'Mammy, can I brush your hair?'. I remember looking over at my hubby in shock. What do we do about this? I panicked and then froze.

Cathal came over and said 'take off your hat Mammy', which I did. He sat up behind me and brushed my bald head. He didn't bat an eyelid, he never said: 'Where's your hair?' He didn't bother with clips, just sat there brushing. It all happened so fast that I barely had time to react - which was just as well.

I was shocked really by how natural the whole thing was. For him, it was no different, he didn't look at me any differently bald than he did when I had hair. He saw the big picture - just me, his Mum, and not a stranger with an egg head. He took comfort from the ritual that he had been doing for months.

It was one of the most emotional and poignant moments of my whole cancer journey and I will treasure the moment forever.

That particular memory all came back to me this evening - three years later, when out of the blue Cathal came up and asked me if he could brush my hair. I have hair now, it grew back thick and strong - not that it would make any difference to Cathal anyway!!!!


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