As a nurse, I have the chance to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Some are fun, some are not so fun. Then there are those that change my life, and changed the kind of nurse I am. For privacy issues, I won’t use real names, but I want to tell you their stories. To read about previous patients, click here.
Back when I was younger, I had a best friend who died of cancer. To commemorate her memory, every two years, in August/September, I donate 12 inches of hair. I’ve been doing this for years. (Actually, this year will be the 8th time I do it)
I’ve never really thought too much about the recipients of my donation until a few years back. I had a new patient, Kathy. She had terminal brain cancer, and it took us several weeks to get a routine. Part of the difficulty was that because of the tumor in her brain, her personality was wildly different every time I worked with her. We both became frustrated: her because she wanted to do things the way she used to, and me, because I wanted to take care of her, and she kept trying to get out of bed and falling.
But once we got used to each other, and once we began to learn to trust one another, we developed a very strong friendship. She and I would talk at night, when I was done with my med pass, and I would go in to check on her often, especially since she was a fall risk.
One night, after I helped her, I turned around to close the bathroom door, and she commented on my hair. She said it was beautiful, and she wished that she had hair like it. She’d recently shaved her head, and was very self-conscious about it. It was an off-handed comment, one that I’m sure didn’t mean more than a compliment, but it made me stop to think.
For years, I’d been donating my hair to complete strangers, people who I’d never actually met. I started to consider donating my hair to her, as a token of our friendship. Before I had the chance, she ended up passing away, peacefully in her sleep.
She was a special woman, one who made me stop to consider the people I’d been serving without thinking. I’d been donating my hair in memory of my childhood friend, but now, I also remember Kathy, the patient whose entire life had been affected by her disease. A woman who wanted to feel beautiful again, even if she was, at least in my eyes.