Queen of Hearts


By Molly MacDonald

Dressed as the Queen of Hearts, I attended the first of three Halloween parties last night in a beautiful old home known as Chapman House in Rochester, Michigan.

The home is now an interior design store, where each room is filled with unique offerings, antiques, great upholstered pieces, artwork, candles, accessories and gifts.  Just going in the place makes me want to empty my wallett.

But last night Chapman House turned Haunted House for the evening.

As the Queen of Hearts, I remained in character all night long. My costume was purchased from Disney years ago, when they made very high quality costumes for adults. Lots of heart embossed tulle, satin in shades of red and yellow, trimmed in black black and white, and a large gold crown with a red velvet heart in the middle.  I dressed it up further with strands of pearls,  ala Coco Channel, a crown belt cinching what could be called my waist with a red velvet ribbon edged in studded gold beads.  To further the ruse, I wore a wig, given to me by a Survivor in the my breast cancer support group.  This woman was the beneficiary of a number of different wigs, each of which were given to her as gifts.  She chose to go au naturel, but not wanting to offend well meaning friends, passed them on to others of us, who wanted to disguise our cancer.

At the end of the evening, after holding to my character for about four hours, I was presented with a prize, “second best costume” and a gift certificate to Chapman House, which I will use promptly emptying my wallet to add the dollars necessary to purchase the “crown” tray from which the wine was served.

I had a great time, pretending to be the Queen of Hearts, refusing to leave my character and discuss my real life.

This morning, it occured to me that cancer causes us to want, maybe even need to disguise our illness.  Certainly, our real lives, while seeking out second opinions, deciding on treatment options and then going through treatment, can look pretty grim.

Pretending to be okay, we shield our friends and family from the reality that while fighting for our lives we are frightened to death.  And even as we repeat our mantras, “I am okay.  I have everything I need.”  The truth of the matter is there is a lot of “dressing up in costume” going on here . . . . except in the case of cancer, there are no prizes awarded for feigning to be someone you are not.

But the dressing up can only go on for so long.  No one really believes us, certainly not ourselves.  And that normal we are seeking is no different than the normal we sought before.  As Erma Bombeck best defined it, “Normal is a setting on the dryer.”  Which means to my way of thinking, normal is whatever you are dealing with at the time.

Sometimes the pretending and the disguising just become too much to bear alone and we need support.  For me, it came in the form of a weekly meeting at Beaumont Hospital, where through Sharing and Caring, guided by a compassionate RN, I could “take off my wig” and share my greatest fears, while encouraging others who were facing the same.

But not every hospital has a support group.  Not every town has a Gilda’s Club.

Two oustanding organizations which work solely to provide support are www.pink-link.org and www.imermanangels.org.

“The Pink-Link Breast Cancer Support Network provides valuable community and support resources for women currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The minute you were diagnosed with Breast Cancer, you became a survivor! We want to help you establish a healthy survivorship during and following your treatment. We understand that the support you need goes beyond what your doctor, friends and family can provide.”

Imerman Angels works with all types of cancers to provide that unique support only someone who has gone through what you have experienced can understand.

I strongly suggest checking out both organizations.  Cancer does not require wearing a costume to disguise our condition.  Instead when we find support, we realize that cancer is really just our new normal.

Being okay and having everything you need, sometimes is just knowing there is someone out there who knows and understands.

As for the Queen of Hearts, well the costume was apropos in my role as founder of The Pink Fund, because ultimately, The Pink Fund is founded on the principal “a heart for helping others.”

Let us know how we can help you.


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