While you’re reading, pick up Tyesha Love’s memoir, I Am Not My Hair, A young woman’s journey and triumph over breast cancer:
At the age of 29, I was given a stage II breast cancer diagnosis. After the initial shock, all I would think about was hair loss. My hair was long, thick and healthy – trailing down the nape of my neck and partially down my back. I also tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. Because of the BRCA 1 mutation and the strong history of cancer on my mother’s side of the family, it was recommended I get a bi-lateral mastectomy.
As time went on, I endured a series of chemotherapy treatments and surgeries. I suffered setbacks and defeat. As I overcame some of the most distressing moments of my battle, I learned – it was not my hair or breasts that defined me or that made me special. I began to accept that I did not have hair. I loved the idea of not having to buy shampoo and not having to spend two hours styling my hair. The idea of spending an extra half hour enjoying a bubble bath and not for shaving was just as, if not more, gratifying. I accepted that I would be without breasts temporarily. I could proceed with the reconstruction process after I finished treatment, as chemotherapy would slow the healing process.
For vanity reasons, of course, hair and breasts were ideal. However, after I was challenged with complications, infections, depression and defeat, the loss of my hair and breasts became the least of my worries. Vanity no longer took precedence. The idea that I am not my hair became so relevant because I had a new normal to get acquainted with; a new normal that involved, at some point, new breasts, a new beginning temporarily without hair, and a new outlook on life. The idea that I am not my hair became relevant because I started to learn what made me special, what made me an individual and what made me unique from others.
This revelation sparked a fight for survivorship. In moments of hope, when I affirmed that I would overcome cancer, I began to ascertain what truly defined me, what was really important in my life, and what and who are truly worthy of my time and energy. I began to determine which things in my life needed to be weaned out and what should be cherished. Those cherished people, goals, and passions took precedence. They were worth the fight against cancer.
I desired to see my children grow up with families of their own. Having been raised in a family of “secret squirrels”, I aimed to be the “squeaky wheel” and vowed to educate my children on our family’s medical history and on how they can and should be proactive with their own health.
Life and my second chance to truly live it, survivorship, the will to fight, and to live a fulfilling life became prioritites. My will to live in order to engender awareness, empowerment and inspiration became my inspiration. Overcoming cancer, empowering, inspiring and encouraging others through my personal experience became my objective.
As revealed in my memoir, I Am Not My Hair, A young woman’s journey and triumph over breast cancer, survivors will be encouraged to know that, even though they may have experienced a tough time, it does not last forever, and not only can they can conquer it, but they come out stronger, improved, wiser; more caring, giving and compassionate.
Join Tyesha Love on Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at a book signing and discussion of her memoir. If you live in the Philadelphia area, make your way to Mugshots Coffeehouse and Cafe on Fairmount Avenue.