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By Fran Di Giacomo,
PHD (Perpetually Hairless Dame)
Yeah, right. Who never dreamed of doing life over? Given the chance, who really takes the risk? I did. Remember those childhood games when you yelled “do-over,” the slate was wiped clean, and you got another chance? Well, I got another chance at life and called a “do-over.” Actually, I admit to being pushed into it, but once I got the wind in my sails there was just nowhere to stop. As a career cancer patient who inherited a defective gene and a life expectancy of 45 years, my gene pool never had to deal with wrinkles, pattern-balding, or bifocals. My life’s goal was living to be 60, and after surviving two primary cancers, ten years of chemo, and twenty-four surgeries, I had to face the realities of aging. Oh, cruel irony!
On my 60th birthday, life as I knew it fell apart. With Grand Master status at “playing the chemo card,” ignoring all those nuisance maintenance/repairs that I still blame on Adam and Eve, here’s the short list of what broke: roof, driveway, wallpaper in two bathrooms, my car, camera, computer, sewing machine, oven, and my two front teeth. Frankly, chemotherapy was easier than addressing these issues, but fate was not on my side. The first to go was my trusty old auto; we’d both lost too many irreplaceable parts and I was taking bets on which of us could last longer. My chemo-corroded brain resists new technology – whatever happened to a simple on/off button? There are six owner’s manuals in my purse and the simplest task must be gleaned from a book handily written in five languages. But it’s comforting to know if I’m stranded in Berlin and need to adjust the oven timer, the information will be at my fingertips. Survival is a relative term.
Moments after completing yet another series of chemo marinades, I sprouted hair everywhere. The new diagnosis was Frankenstein’s Bride Syndrome (kinky white froth) with complications of PNH (Protruding Nose Hair). Pushed to desperation, somewhere in the wee hours of the night when the Ambien wears thin and everything seems like a good idea, I yelled, “Do-over!”
I hated my old front teeth and relished star-quality replacements to go with my new (suddenly brown) hairdo. The new car/teeth/wallpaper were so much fun, I determined to change everything else that annoyed me. First on the list were my upper eyelids. I’d wanted a matched pair since I was three years old, and now they were drooping down and sticking in my eyelash glue (plenty of new nasal hair, but still no eyelashes). This was truly the final insult and my choices were clear – install brass rods, or remove the drapery. A quick neighborhood survey produced a preferred lid specialist, and I was booked for a “property improvement program.” I was on a roll; my perky new eyelids were such a hit, you knew the droopy chin would be next. The beer commercials say you only go around once in life, so I’m going with a new chin (the small print at the bottom of your screen cautions you not to try this at home, always consult your medical team, blah, blah, etc… ).
Ever evolving, my art now has a new look, I threw out the plants, kept my husband, got thicker bifocals, and my hair’s falling out again ─ this time due to age. Of course, life is full of things we can’t change; there’ll always be the quirky humor, goofy smile, and cancer. I can live with that.
Artist Fran Di Giacomo is author of I’d Rather Do Chemo Than Clean Out the Garage: Choosing Laughter Over Tears. Visit Fran at www.TheChemoLady.com