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How We Say Good-Bye: To Ourselves
Saying Goodbye

No one likes endings. Unless it's the end of a brutal storm or say, an 8 year presidency that wreaked havoc on our lives.

Before 911 all you had to do was look side to side while waiting to board an airplane to know that  the two most difficult words in the English language joined by a hyphen are good-bye.  

It's a shame that we no longer have the privilege of witnessing total strangers part from their loved ones in an airport terminal. That moment of shared vulnerability offered harried travelers a moment of reflection about where they have been, where they are headed and who and what they are leaving behind.

Impatient with the tattletale behind you gossiping at full volume on a cell phone with a bad connection, perhaps upon witnessing an intimate moment between a distraught wife with toddler in tow clinging to her military husband in full fatigues could soften you.  Maybe even quiet your anger towards the scandalmonger still prattling on speaker phone to your rear.

At moments,  the past several years feel like one long good-bye.  Cancer has a way of doing that.  Instantly, life with a diagnosis hastens a succession of endings. In my case, 48 hours to bid farewell to the possibility of having children was the first of many. And as fate or God would have it, much of what you cling to and assign great meaning may be taken away directly--and mostly without consultation. 

Apart from the surgery and chemo treatment itself, saying goodbye to my hair was the most traumatic. Having spent 20 years over identifying with--and maybe even hiding behind--long wild curly brown hair, shaving my head was devastating. It was my calling card and the talisman I relied on in my youth to bolster me in times of insecurity.  With flowing locks, I was a mermaid swimming in a sea of potent possibilities.

Fortunately, I was surround by brave and caring souls willing to get drunk and tell stories during the shearing ceremony which, unbeknownst to me would symbolize the shedding of the next several years.

Yes, for all of us, saying good-bye is the one thing we must do over and over as humans if we are truly alive.

As it turns out parting from my hair was probably the most liberating of all the farewells.  Although there are days where I am still surprised to catch my reflection in a window or a mirror where I am reminded of the 'old me'. 

The letting go of relationships--even though they may have dissolved imperceptibly over time--feels abrupt and almost intolerable.  Perhaps it is the extended fight or flight mode when battling disease that causes clinging to that which needs release. And like a naked head, this too comes with its' own feeling of exposure, vulnerability and unattractiveness. Forgiveness is my new best friend. 

Bidding adieu to the person I thought I was has been both instructive and disturbing. Demolished are the facades of certainty and righteousness. And now that the ground is leveled and a few bricks remain, I debate whether to discard them or gather them together for the new foundation. 

During a chemo-induced, half-hallucination, I was later reminded by a friend that I suddenly bolted from the bed in the middle of the night muttering "chemo ain't for sissies"!

And neither is saying good-bye. 





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Thank you. Molly, for this piece

I thoroughly enjoyed your blog. It has huge potential to be a full blown essay. My endings are always conflagrations.

I know about identity and hair, because I've lost my thick, Asian hair thrice, because of medications. It has grown back curly and rather frizzy for a Chiense gal. I loved chopping off my hair in my 20's into a boy's cut, but that was voluntary. It amde me look like the tomboy I feel I am.

The Redroom topics are wonderful, but I rarely have the courage these days to tackle them in a blog. The subjects seems to require bleeding, so I've only sat back to watch others unlock their veins.

The literal saying of good-byes hits too hard, as my friends tend to be elderly. I must have shed half a dozen mentors in the past year. They departed like a school of tropical fish: made a turn and darted beyond the kelp. Some I've lost to dementia. Dementia is worse than death.

Wishing you victory over your illness.

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Dear Belle Thank you so much

Dear Belle

Thank you so much for your thoughtful words and your honesty. I've only just started writing again since all this started. It seems the powers that be shut down the engines while i was going through the treatment and about and year plus afterwards and something has opened back up.

So you know well, even better than than I perhaps, what comes with the physical transformation having gone through it several times.

I can only imagine the torture of losing friends and loved ones to dementia. I remember reading about Iris Murdoch in a book her husband wrote after her death. It is the closest I've come to understanding the anguish that must come with the dissolution.

I know your hair must have been lovely and you certainly look stunning in that hat!

best to you,


Molly Secours

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