Living with cancer blog

Alternative artwork inspires cancer survivor

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. February 2, 2010

When Kathleen Hodges was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, she had a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. After losing her hair, Kathleen decided to opt for a "cooler" option than a traditional head covering. She shares her story below:

Many people ask why I chose "head art" versus a traditional head covering. The easiest explanation is that I live in Arizona. During the summer, temperatures easily reach 115. Wigs, hats or other coverings are just too hot! My daughter made the suggestion of "head art" and volunteered her talented husband, Austin Grant, for the work.

He used Crayola washable markers because they apply smoothly and are non-toxic. Each design took him one to two hours and lasted about a week. It was sad to wash off each creation, but we took photos. Another reason I chose this option was that I did not want to feel — or look — like a victim. The bright colors, beautiful artwork and the uniqueness of the drawings made me and many others happy.

The first day when I had a flower on my head I was in Costco and was approached by a woman who told me that I had not only made her day, but gave her strength to make the decision to receive treatment for her illness.

An elderly man inquired about my status and when I told him that I had an excellent prognosis, he hugged me and told me the story of his wife's unsuccessful battle 20 years earlier. He then shared that I brought back all of the good memories and his wife would have loved the idea.

Once when I went in for treatment, the nurse introduced me to a patient receiving her first treatment and her husband. As we talked, she shared that her greatest fear was losing her hair, but she felt more confident after speaking with me and seeing my head.

One gentleman walked directly into a wall, laughed and waved.

I told a very bald man that only the best of heads can go bare!

Everyone loved the artwork and the best thing was that I never got the pity looks. I received compliments and innumerable smiles, but no one felt sorry for me. I could be dealing with the side effects of chemo but the flowers always made me feel better. I was never, "Poor Kathy with cancer." I was always me — a little different, maybe a bit eccentric, but happy.

What have you done that might have brought happiness to others during your cancer journey? Please share.

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Feb. 02, 2010