Beauty draws us with a single hair -- Alexander Pope
Seven months ago we were at an emotional turning point as the chemical assault on Atia's delicate body had begun. Among other things, it caused her hair to fall out. We knew it was going to happen; we just weren't prepared for the heartache it evoked. Seeing those lone, baby fine hairs lying on the pillow was devastating.
I abhorred the cancer threatening my daughter's life.
Atia's first hairs on the pillow
How dare it attack her; how dare it invade her innocent vessel; how dare it aspire to take from me all that I had ever hoped for and dreamt of - Atia was my gift from God. She was my reward for victoriously overcoming my own cancer.
I detested what the drugs were doing to her body, to her appearance. She was balding and bloated. Her adorable little baby face was hidden behind swollen, pronounced cheeks. Her eye brows had vanished; her eye lashes thinned.
We knew that the Maintenance phase was less altering and more easily tolerated, so we had high hopes. And sure enough, within a month her restoration began. Atia's hair started growing back. That simple, every day act elicited insurmountable elation; a vast contrast from the "hairs on the pillow" days.
Though celebrating her hair growth may seem superficial to some, to me it wasn't. I had been waiting a long time to see my baby's sweet, angelic trademark look return and her hair was a big part of that. It was as though the drug's side effects had been holding her hostage.
With each new strand of hair came a greater sense of relief. Her hair was an outward glimpse of what was happening within; for me, it symbolized renewed health.
Through her hair, I saw hope. Through her hair, I saw recovery. Through her hair, I saw life regenerated. Through her hair, I saw strength renewed. Through her hair, I saw health overcome disease. Though her hair, I saw survival!
Well before she was diagnosed, Atia loved wearing hair accessories. I'm not kidding; she was the only one year old I knew that would not pull out her bows and barrettes. She liked the way they looked. She would proudly parade around in her hair adornments eagerly awaiting the compliments.
Atia's Hair Beginning to Grow
We watched Atia's hair grow day-by-day. Every morning Steve and I said, "Atia, your hair is growing back!" and she would reply, "I so exkited!" (pronouncing it as, ex-KI-ted).
Atia seemed to enjoy her new hair as much as we did. One day before going out to dinner, I asked if she'd like to try wearing a barrette. Her eyes lit up and she excitedly said, "Yes, Mommy!" So, we dug through all her little hair accessories (we'd started quite a collection before she was diagnosed) and found the perfect little purple sparkly barrette.
Honestly, I had little hope that it would stay. So, I held my breath and clipped it in. Remarkably, it did.
A divine warmth washed over me; I nearly lost my breath. I asked her to step back so I could see. She did and then looked at me with anticipation and pride. My eyes welled with tears. As they ran down my cheek, I smiled. Atia smiled back.
I was in awe of Atia's beauty. Not because of her modest hair growth or because that little barrette clung tightly to her wisps of hair, but because of the way her eyes sparkled with joy -sheer, innocent, toddler joy. At two years old, even she knew how monumental it was.
At dinner, Atia proudly paraded around showing off her purple sparkly barrette for everyone to see. She held her head high, enjoying each acknowledgement and giggling with delight.
That night our hearts sang as we realized that we had reached a pivital point. That night our treacherous climb had ended. That night we began our journey down the other side of the mountain - the side of recovery and renewal, health and strength, triumph and survival
Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month? While most children are "back to school" in September, thousands will not be in their seats the first day of school because they are undergoing cancer treatment. To learn more, click on the link above.
Also, be sure to check out the pictures below. You can't miss the last one!