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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Through their eyes

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." I Samuel 16:7
This is a pic Alexa drew of our family shortly after my cancer diagnosis. Alexa is the stick figure on the left with a pink smiley face sticker. Daddy is the larger figure in the middle, and I am the stick figure on the right. Notice the slash through my arm where the tumor is. (Perhaps the other stick figure between Alexa and Daddy is another child we pray for someday). If you ask Alexa, though, it's probably her pretend pet cat.

I promised a post revealing how Chris and Alexa Hope handled the transition from a full-haired Mommy to a bare-headed Mommy. As you can only imagine, there is great trepidation when confronted with the reality your hair will soon be history. Unfortunately, it's just another rung in the "loss" ladder cancer deals out. The next loss - eyelashes & eyebrows . . . and let's not talk about my arm. But I digress, at least for me, there was a deep, hidden fear even once I came to terms with my own hair loss, the most important people in my life might not.

I was so afraid my three-year-old daughter would think Mommy looked like a monster. I wish I had a gentler descriptor but "monster" was always the word that came to mind when I envisioned my first encounter with Alexa. And, more importantly, I was afraid Chris was growing weary of the "in sickness and in health" commitment he made to me at the altar seven years ago. Perhaps my baldness might be his breaking point. I know you smile and say to yourself - "Kels, you're officially losing it" (by the way, I have); however, fear can be so real at times and this was one of these moments. Because you know my family, I could stop now and you would know the "rest of the story," but I think it deserves retelling.


From the onset of my diagnosis, we wanted Alexa to know the truth she was capable of handling. Although she is only three, we knew our little girl could perceive a great deal of what was going on so there was no need hiding any of it from her. After all, this journey is as much about her growth and refinement as it is mine. And at the end of the day, we want her to walk away with an expanded view of God not a diminished or confused one.

From the first doctor's appointment (at the end of March) until the present, we pray daily, multiple times a day for God to heal Mommy's arm and her entire body. We thank Him in advance for what He is doing and is going to do. So, it was precious to me a few weeks ago before we prayed that Alexa asked me this . . .

A: "Mommy, why does God heal my ouchies fast but He heals your arm (speaking slowly & deliberately) S-L-O-W?"

I thought it was an excellent question. I said, "It does seem like God is taking a long time healing Mommy's arm. Maybe He is waiting for us to ask Him to speed it up." So, I add in every once in a while, "Lord, could you please heal Mommy's arm and entire body quickly."

And when we pretend Alexa is Doc McStuffins and I am her patient, she will pretend to cut out Mommy's tumor. She will tell me the tumor is stuck in my arm and we need to get the tape out to make it all better. Oh, how I wish it were that simple.

All of that to say, A's little mind is turning all the time as she processes the transitions forced upon her with this disease. When Chris' parents left a little over two weeks ago, she asked me who was coming to stay with us next. She has begun to accept Mommy's absence for surgeries, doc's appointments, scans and chemo. She accepts I don't have much energy anymore and I am limited in what I can do. I didn't say she was happy about it but she accepts it. I'm truly grateful for that. So . . . on to my hair loss.
Soon after my diagnosis, we received these children's books dealing with mommy's cancer from dear family & friends. Initially, I read the titles, put them directly back in the packing box, and asked my mom to take them home with her. I wasn't ready to deal with that stuff. However, three months in and heading into my 2nd round of chemo, I asked mom to bring the books back. In my heart, I knew it was time to prepare Alexa for another change.

So, we (rather Chris) would read one book to Alexa each night. I would sit beside A trying to remain strong but tears always seemed to trickle down my face as the book would describe my condition and I would just look at my precious child - my heart breaking. Alexa remained incredibly attentive during these books, so I knew she was listening.

Two mornings after reading our first book, Alexa jumped in my bed with me while my Dad (aka Pop) came back to try to convince Alexa to play with him so I could sleep. Out of the blue she said, "Pop, did you know Mommy is going to lose her hair?" Pop was taken aback as he didn't know we had been discussing such matters with Alexa. I interjected, "Yes, but remember, Mommy's hair isn't like Pop's. Mommy's hair will grow back. Poor Pop's won't." We laughed a bit and then I asked her if she remembered why Mommy's hair was going to fall out. Alexa replied matter-of-factly, "So all of her ouchies will go away." A beautiful moment indeed - my little girl "got it."

But "getting it" and experiencing it are two different things. The night I left to shave my head, Chris told Alexa that mommy went to shave her head and that meant when she saw me in the morning all of my hair would be gone. I was so nervous that morning when she hopped into bed with us. I had a beanie on to keep my virgin bare head warm. I hugged her and asked her if she wanted to see my bare head. She was groggy so I didn’t really get a response from her. I took off my beanie asking if she wanted to touch my head and she turned away. It broke my heart but it didn't surprise me (I immediately thought "monster"). I quickly covered my head and asked if she would give me my best medicine - her hugs. I was relieved when she did and I decided keeping my head covered for the rest of the day might be the best bet.

However, after a doc's appointment and running errands, my head was hot and itchy from wearing a hat, so I asked her if it would be okay if I took off my hat. She agreed. So, I said a quick prayer, took off my hat, and started dancing around like the silly Mommy I normally am. She started giggling and said, "Mommy, you look kinda funny." I looked at myself in the mirror, smiled and totally agreed. Then, I asked her if she wanted to feel my head and she said yes. I carefully sat beside her and she ran her little hand across my head. "It feels rough like Pop's face." I said, "Yes, that's because some hair is already growing back."

From that moment on, I've felt unconditional acceptance from Lil' A. She enjoys feeling my rough noggin' and I feel free to walk around without any coverings when I'm around her. I am still Mommy in her eyes, and for that, I am forever grateful.


Chris has been nothing but a knight since our world was turned upside-down. He listens when he knows I need to vent. He does not pass judgment when others would. He prays when there aren't words to make it better. And, he holds my clawed up right-hand in bed when I am in pain or just processing the harsh realities of this evil disease. I didn't expect anything but kindness when my hair starting falling out, but as I mentioned before, there is still a deep desire to be beautiful in your husband's eyes. I definitely haven't felt like a model since April. What was Chris going to think of his bride with yet another outward manifestation of sickness?

The night before we shaved my head, we were in bed and I asked him (holding back tears that were inevitably puddling in my eyes), "Are you ready to be married to . . . a bald wife?" Chris was silent for just a moment and replied, "I'm not concerned. I didn't marry you for your hair. . . I married you for your money." We laughed and I had that peace and assurance that you can only get when you've married your best friend.

So - how did Chris react when I returned home from my head-shaving appointment? He was waiting at the door for me. When I walked in, he just hugged me for what seemed like several minutes. He didn't have to say anything. I felt his immediate love and acceptance. Then, I took off my cap and he said, "You look great!" Then, he kissed my vulnerable, cold head. The following morning, he left for work before I woke-up but I found these post-it notes displayed throughout the house.

Needless to say, "the rest of the story" is just as you expected. My family and my friends have been nothing but encouraging and supportive of my new look. They continue to see past convention to my heart and love me just the way I am.

Thank you for placing precious family and friends into my life during this often "yucky" season. I do not deserve the love and compassion they continually show me. Thank you for extravagantly blessing me in ways I never would have experienced without having walked through this darkness. Amen.


  1. Dearest Kelsey: You are and always beautiful way beyond the world's definition of beauty. Carry on. Prayers continuing. Isn't God awesome and so loving. Blessings. Sharl and Doug Taylor

  2. Kelsey, tears just stream down my face for you, some for the pain you feel but most to hear of the great love you are experiencing and how you are depending on the Lord. May the God of all grace and love continue to bless you and your family. praying for you girl

  3. Tears. Love reading your family. You are beautiful!