It was November of 2009, a little after Thanksgiving, when my mother learned that she had breast cancer. She never thought she was going to lose her life instead she was more concerned about losing her hair. She’d had her sisterlocks for over a year and they’d finally gotten to a place where they were draping and swinging a little bit. They were gorgeous and she’d spent time, money and effort investing in their growth. They meant something to her.
So it came as a shock to me when she decided she was going to undergo chemo therapy. She didn’t have to have chemo as the doctors assured her they’d removed the lump. But by this point the will to live had become more important than the hair on her head and she wanted the best odds of walking away from this ordeal cancer free.
A few weeks after my mother’s first chemo treatment two of her locks fell out and she had my father shave her head completely bald.
I’m so glad her priorities had changed. My mother’s hair was lovely but it paled in comparison to the beauty of her being and her spirit. It was her life that was worth preserving not her hair.
That’s a lesson that many women, and black women in particular, could stand to learn. There’s no need to place so much stock in elements of your physical appearance that really mean little to nothing in the grand scheme of life.
That’s a lesson Wanda Sykes learned early on in her breast cancer journey, but on a greater, deeper level. After a breast reduction surgery in February, Sykes’ doctors told her she had DCIS [ductal carcinoma in situ] in her left breast. Luckily, she caught it early, as DCIS is basically a stage zero cancer.
But Sykes took the diagnosis seriously. Instead of trying to preserve her breast tissue, Sykes had a bilateral mastectomy in August.
What a brave and bold decision.
Opting for this type of surgery swiftly removes the very pieces of your body that in many ways identify you as a woman. It’s an intense adjustment to come to grips with and the recuperation time can be brutal.
In an interview with People Magazine, Sykes said it took a month for her to heal.
“I was miserable. Every day I had to change the bandages and look at it, and it was not pretty at all,” says Sykes. “I just wanted my life back.”
Preserving her life was exactly why Sykes opted for the surgery. And it seems to have worked Sykes said that now that she’s healed she feels “whole again” The comedian told People that being there for her twins greatly influenced the decision to have the mastectomy.
“I just wanted the best odds. I made my decision because I love life.”