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Dear Silvie: A Letter to My Chemo Wig

A letter to my chemo wig, Silvie, thanking her for the confidence, strength, courage and bravery that she helped me find during my cancer journey.
BY Meryl Verb
PUBLISHED June 27, 2019
Dear Silvie:

I heard those devastating words: “You have cancer.” I was instantly filled with profound grief and sadness. A week later I heard the word “chemo” and fear engulfed me in an indescribable way. I feared for my body and for my broken heart and for the awful health history I had just bestowed upon my two daughters.

Silvie, when I brought you home "just in case," a part of me didn't believe this was my reality or that you would actually be needed. Four weeks later, I did need you; and to my surprise, you were perfectly imperfect – just like my own hair! You developed a cowlick on the top and your back layers were unruly. So unruly, that two of my young grandchildren never caught on and were thankfully spared all the new words in my vocabulary.

Chemo wasn't a place for you, Silvie. Although my grief followed me there, my appearance wasn't even noticeable in a room filled with people who looked just as I did. There I was, a patient with cancer, and I hated that label. This solo experience was filled with IVs; drugs that made me sleep there but kept me up at home for two nights; neuropathy that caused a lot of pain and made me feel like my body was on fire. But I was one of the lucky ones who didn't suffer from nausea or similar reactions to chemo. Mental anguish, however, was my constant companion.

Silvie, you weren't welcome at radiation treatments either. Unknown to me, not even my turbans were welcome. There I had to enter a room, remove my head covering and remove my robe while this giant machine did its job. I'd close my eyes and try to pretend I was anywhere else and try to maintain whatever dignity was left in me. Again, I was one of the lucky ones. Side effects were minimal, burning controllable, pain bearable. And once again, mental anguish remained my constant companion.

Cancer took away so much – my sense of control and my sense of wellbeing. I felt scared and traumatized and that's my excuse for all the times I whipped you off my head, hurled you across the room and had a tantrum. But here's what cancer couldn't take from me – the love and the compassion from my family and friends. My daughters, who gave all the unconditional love and support that I needed, are my reasons for powering through the dark tunnel I unwillingly entered. My love for them and their children allowed light to enter in all that darkness and pain.

Here we are almost six months later. Chemo is over; radiation is over; appointments with doctors are far less frequent; my energy is returning and new hair growth is becoming more and more noticeable. But I still need you, Silvie, and I cling onto the confidence only you can give me when I step out into my world beyond my home.

When the time comes that we can part ways, I will return you to your hiding place with one big difference: You will no longer remind me of cancer; instead, you will remind me of the strength, courage and bravery that you helped me find in the depths of my being that enabled me to come through this journey. Thank you, my Dear Silvie.
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