When I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in June, 2008, I focused on the high chances of recovery. I imagined myself a warrior in a dark adventure, full of unknown challenges that would force me to find solutions to help all of us that face this journey. As both a patient and a doctor, maybe I would even discover a natural cure.
As the days of chemotherapy and radiation closed in, I didn't feel so adventurous. Above all, I became obsessed with how to deal with losing my hair. The doctors encouraged me to maintain my lifestyle as much as possible during treatment, which meant being in public almost every day. I wanted to be a positive role model to my own patients, no matter what my condition.
At least initially, a cancer diagnosis rips away our sense of control over anything. Unlike gradual appearance changes, like weight or normal aging, chemo hair loss can happen over just a few days, and we can't do anything to stop it. Living in a body that has turned against you, chemo leaves you tired, cranky and hairless, and you don't even recognize the person in the mirror.
Some days it's difficult to just get up, yet there are daily tasks, medical appointments, a job and a family. With barely has the energy to put on lipstick, you would think appearance is not important, but the comfort of the familiar, and that need to look good and be accepted, never goes away. Besides feeling awkward, I didn't want how my head looked to scream "I have cancer." I admit, I'm a teeny bit of a control freak, but I wanted to inspire hope, not pity.
Going through treatment in the cooler months, few women I met went bare-headed. Other than wigs, most wore skimpy kerchiefs and caps that were more of an emergency measure than a conscious style decision. As we chatted in the waiting room, many complained that they were self-conscious about their hair loss and dorky hat, often looking worse than they felt, and frustrated by this constant reminder of their illness.
Once I lost my hair, my scalp was so sensitive from other chemo side effects that wigs were unbearable. I experimented with wrapping scarves of all sizes until I came up with a turban effect that was actually more flattering than my hair had been. And I could wear colors to match an outfit, I couldn't do that with my hair! Every time I went to the treatment centers, the nurses ran over to see what new wrap I was wearing. Best of all, the patients would always brighten up and ask me where they could find one already wrapped.
Seeing the turbans made everyone well, titillated. And the idea of Titillating Turbans was born.
Because wraps can be challenging, I wanted to create something that would be easy for anyone to just plop on their head, and style according to their own personality. There were no patterns similar to my turban, so I started snipping and stitching until I developed a workable pattern and found the most comfortable fabrics. I made a prototype and by June, 2009, a year after my initial diagnosis, I had all the business aspects complete, and a new line of head wear that makes women perk up and smile from the moment they see the variety of gorgeous colors and soft fabrics.
Throughout my life, my mantra has been, "Everything happens for a reason." Then I got cancer, and entered a family of thousands of cancer patients of all ages. And I can find no reason for all this suffering.
Now I believe stuff happens for no reason. But what we do with that "stuff" defines who we are. What I do see is that we are incredibly loving beings, with instincts not only to preserve our own survival, but to ease the suffering of others. Whether you knit a cap, send a card, call, tweet or discover a cure, the roles are equally important. Our strengths arise from our ability to sense the needs of others and our resiliency in the face of adversity to find solutions that will ease their pain.
I hope Titillating Turbans is an encouraging link in the chain of recovery. They were created to help women remember they are so much more than their hair; each person has a unique style and beauty that comes from within. No matter what happens to our bodies, we are creative creatures and will find a way to decorate and celebrate who we are, connect with others and share the healing wisdom that awakens as we embrace each moment of this precious life.
This article originally posted on Join Our Loop. Please visit and support this inspirational gathering place for collaborative insights and information on breast cancer - before, during and after diagnosis and treatment.