Prayers for Cancer

by - Posted on Jun 7, 2010

I came home to find the old green towel hanging in the bathroom. “What’s this out for?” I asked. Carol used to use it for cutting the boys’ hair.

“I cut Eve’s hair.”

“Oh,” I said. An “oh” that was a transition from light-hearted memories of seeing the boys draped in the green towel to thoughts of Eve wrapped in it. Eve is Carol’s older sister. She’s funny, smart, warm and has a sweet mystical side that can take you by surprise. She’s also got cancer. She had a double mastectomy two months ago and is going for her third round of chemo.

“Her hair was starting to fall out,” Carol said, “so she asked me if I would cut it all off.” I looked to the bathroom floor and to the sink, relieved to see that none of the shorn locks were there. 

“That was nice of you,” I said.

“It seemed pretty sad.”

“The thing about Eve,” I said, “is that she has absolutely no self-pity. She’s been really so positive about dealing with all this.”

“She was good-natured about the hair too,” Carol said. “She brought this piece of blue tulle that she wrapped around her bald head and then put a butterfly pin on top.”

“How did she look?”

“Kind of funny. But if it helps her deal with it, who cares.”

Later, over the weekend, I read that some 41 percent of Americans are hit by cancer at some point in their lives. At first that number seemed very high, but when I thought about it and the experience of our family, that number seemed just right. Lots of people have to deal with cancer. Sometimes I’m not sure how to pray for them, but I felt Eve had given me some good guidance. There are two images. One is of practicality—that old green towel. The other is of hope: the butterfly pin.

Practicality and hope, it’s as much as you can wish for. And pray for.

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