Two years ago my son’s life was forever changed. A friend was diagnosed with cancer.
I remember the prayer requests, the “I am sure it is nothing” reassurances, and that final text saying that the tests came back. It was a weird time, not only right before the holidays, but these texts were also popping up in between celebrity interviews, red carpets, and drinks with new friends who I couldn’t really confide in. “It is malignant.” came in as I walked to my car to leave a dream trip at Disney Studios. I don’t remember exactly how I responded to that text, but the entire 3 1/2 hour trip home I cried.
I think my kids expected something different to walk in the door after being gone for three days. I was exhausted and worried in a way they had never seen before. My kids knew we were praying for my friend’s son, Luke. They had listen to me say things like “It is probably nothing, but let’s pray that it is nothing and also that everyone can feel peaceful.” Nobody took the news that Luke did in fact have cancer quite as hard as my son. Luke was not the first person my son knew with cancer, my dear friend Kelly had been fighting cancer for as long as he could remember, he knew his great grandmother had passed from cancer when he was not quite three. But Luke was a kid, a friend, and that changed everything.
You can read more about Luke on his mom’s blog Be Brave, Keep Going.
My 8 year old watched his friend get sicker and sicker for more than a year. We’d visit when our friends were up for visitors. We’d sometimes bring snacks, or play video games, or whatever tiny bandaid we could slap on the situation. My son was driven to do more. He was frustrated that Luke kept being sick despite his numerous prayers. God gave him extra credit in the sensitivity department, which is as beautiful as it is challenging in regular every day life. That extra sensitivity also makes extraordinary situations like this just too much for him to process.
We had a lot of conversations about concerns that I didn’t have any immediate solutions for. And while scrolling through Facebook my son saw a video of a little boy with A LOT of hair, far more than my son. The video explained that this boy was growing out his hair because a little girl he knew had cancer and he wanted to make her a wig. “Well, I am gonna do that then.” he said, “I will grow my hair out to be 12 inches and then some girl or boy that has cancer can have my hair for a wig.” pause “It won’t make them not have cancer, but I have nice hair and there is probably a kid that will like it.” And his face beamed with an excitement that I had not yet seen during any of our conversations that centered on cancer. For the first time, he felt proactive, hopeful, and as if something he was able to do could actually be helpful.
In all honestly I was really torn by his idea.
On one hand – ALL THE PRIDE BURSTING EVERYWHERE.
On the other hand – This kid is gonna get teased and then it is gonna be a whole thing. Growing his hair out could easily take a year or more. My fear was Mr. Sensitivity would finally be broken down and rather than a triumphant and ceremonial cut, he would give up early and feel awful. I was worried that he was setting himself up for a lot of teasing that his skin simply isn’t thick enough for. I was worried that then he would do something as normal as cut his hair and feel guilty about that. This was my worry…. have I mentioned I am also quiet sensitive?
I said I would be so proud of him if he wanted to do this, but that if he ever wanted to cut it that we would not think badly of him. He assured me that he was not going to waiver. Sure enough, a couple months later the jokes at his expense started rolling in. My son and I decided to put together this video of things that have been said to him and how it made him feel. We are sharing for a couple reasons.
First and foremost, it is therapeutic for him. For him, simply being heard, validated, and understood goes miles. As parents, we want our kids to know their hurts matter to us. Something tells me a few people here might have something encouraging to say too. My hope is that we can drown out the crappy comments with a lot of encouragement. We all know someone who wasn’t encouraged enough, was teased too much, or told to ‘suck it up’ when they were little. I don’t want that for him.
Two, we hope those who find an easy joke in a boy with long hair might think twice before satisfying that urge. At the end of the day, nobody is impressed by someone who takes a cheap shot at a kid. You rob someone of their dignity, even if just for a moment, for the personal pleasure of feeling like you are better them. And really, none of these insults were clever. It made the joker look like a jerk and not particularly intelligent or sophisticated. Don’t be that guy.
We know most of the people who made these comments personally. Classmates, church mates, and even family. It isn’t our goal to call anyone out by name. I know at least in the case of the family member, he has never taken the time to read or engage on my blog, and I don’t expect him to start now. I should point out, most of the rude comments he received we didn’t include here. The reason we aren’t sharing all the comments he could think of is simple. The comments he did get an apology for don’t seem to hurt so much. He is a really forgiving kid. The negative comments he shared here are only the ones where he asked for an apology and was dismissed and denied. Rude.
Now before anyone goes around spreading rumors that my kid doesn’t have a sense of humor, I need to say something. This kid is ridiculous and has an awesome sense of humor. He tells jokes, he makes up jokes, he dresses weird for the amusement of others, and on and on. He just doesn’t want to be the butt of your joke. Who does?
Anyway, we are just trying to work through our feelings because we have found that validating feelings makes us feel closer as a family. I feel more invested in him, he knows I care, it’s a great thing. Some things take a little longer to work through than others. We wrote it down, we talked about it, we were open, and he is still a bit bent out of shape. He said “Well, maybe we just share it with your blog and tell people these are things people shouldn’t say to kids donating their hair.” I was like “That’s a fantastic idea bro.” He went on to say he thinks it will help people who think they are just being funny to maybe just think first to see if it is worth it, and then maybe they will say something nice.
Here is a little video we made together.
Oh, my heart – am I right?
To circle back for those that our wondering, our friend Luke has been in remission for quite some time. His mom shares updates and prayer requests on the Facebook page that was started when things were really scary. It’s rad, follow Luke the Brave, it will remind you often to cling closely to the things that matter most. Our prayer is that Luke continues to beat odds like the boss that he is. We hate that anyone endures cancer, and I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my head around cancer. We 100% understand that in the grand scheme of things, growing hair out for a wig does not make cancer go away. That being said, I could not be prouder of my sweet, sensitive kid who is not great with delayed gratification for pouring a bit of good into a world that can sometimes be cruel.