By Jami Stolper – Cervical Cancer Survivor (Small Cell Cancer of the Cervix)
March 17, 2021
We get used to the way things are, without being familiar with the way things could be, or might turn into being. Habit being a routine way of life. What we think is normal for us, the normal being in our control.
Then that normal controlled habitual way of life comes to a screeching halt. You look down and your foot isn't on the brake nor the gas pedal. But both pedals are to the floor. And all you have, is your hands 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. And eyes wide open with all your senses. Paying even more attention to the blind spot rather than what's ahead and what was behind. Because that blind spot gets ya every time.
This was my moment in time... all in slow motion, paying attention with a new heightened sense with a newfound ability to control things in a different way. The control to let go of the control. But not completely of the wheel. Just the way you grasp it.
No one ever expects receiving the diagnosis of cancer. "That will never happen to me"....!
It's been over two years now. And taking full advantage of this new control about the way I see things... feel things... perceive life. Learning the advantages of this new control, not to control. Because it's ever changing.
Cancer changes us. For both men and women, old and young. Mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and for me, mostly, spiritually. (But I won’t get into that at this time.) And not only us, but the people in our lives.
And we need an escape from our reality of changes and twist it into something positive and fun. And try to keep it there as often as you can. Within any outlet you can find.
One of the first things I asked, "Am I going to lose my hair?" Ok, like seriously? There are far more important questions than that. But I'm sure I'm not the only one. Especially being a woman. Our hair...eek!! That’s our signature identity more important than our fingerprints.
A few weeks after treatment started, my hair was thinning badly. I called on a close friend to come and shave it off. Even invited my family and a few other friends over. I was not prepared to see myself this naked... nor let anyone else. Vulnerability at its finest. But I didn’t want to be alone. I needed the distraction they would give me. It was scary and embarrassing once it was gone. But as any change, I got used to it, but didn’t accept it fully.
I felt exposed and had nothing to hide behind. The bandanas that were gifted, were not going to do the trick. My friend's aunt, whom is a true cancer warrior, let me try the wigs she kept, but were not the color nor style I was used to. It was too much change with all the other changes my life was facing. Too much different at one time.
I played with scarves and eventually a few other wigs, but still not comfortable and my confidence was taken away. Leaving a feeling of shame, yet owning this reality without a choice, which really made no sense, is what made cancer so official.
It took two years to grow it all back, all to lose it again. Of course!
Within these two plus years, I continued to go through other treatments as this cancer decided to travel through more blind spots after the initial areas were treated. And my hair was able to grow back.
Now currently being in the advanced stage of my cancer one of the new combinations of treatment's side effect is hair loss. Ugh!
I mentioned to my friend that I will be needing her assistance with her clipper skills in the very near future. May as well keep the tradition going with her since I think we have literally been through everything together.
This time I had bought a new wig that was very similar to my style of hair, so that it wouldn’t be such a drastic change this time around. Especially since it finally grew back. She suggested to step outside my comfort blonde hair zone and maybe try a red wig.
Surprisingly, I was more apt this time around, since, well, this is now a normal part of my life. Why get use to what is familiar. The acceptance is in my control and might as well make it fun.
We found some nice ones and silly ones and shared the pictures we found. Then I told her jokingly, "We should have a wig party!" She was all for it and wanted to host it, and got my daughter involved within minutes. We named it "Wine and wigging out “.
Photos: Above – Jami’s “Wine & Wigging Out” guests (Jami is back row center with pink & blue wig)! Bottom left: Jami (left) and her friend Teresa Whitney. Bottom right: Jami (right) and her daughter Ashley Behr.
She had me make a gift registry and wish list on Amazon and set a date corresponding to when we thought I'd start losing my hair. And all would take turns with the scissors and clippers. But my hair always had a mind of its own and became the party pooper. So, I ended up having the honors of doing it myself one week earlier than anticipated.
My closest friends were invited. Had to keep it small due to social distancing. As well as not knowing how I would be feeling since I had treatment that week. But I'll tell ya what, knowing my friend-mily were doing this for me, helped keep my mind occupied with party details and input, with something to look forward to.
They all took the time and effort to make Italian appetizers to go along with an Italian soup made by my host friend. My daughter made and decorated themed cutout sugar cookies. One being a teal frosted cancer ribbon. Another being a square, frosted white with zebra stripes and last but not least, a pink frosted wine glass cookie.
With such generosity they gifted wine and many of the wigs, headbands, scarfs, wig stands and accessories that I had on my registry and wish list.
We made a photo booth, the backdrop decorated in my cancer ribbon colors, which are teal with zebra stripe. Small cell cervical cancer. 'Rare but there!'
We had masquerade masks, some boughten and some hand made for props. As well as jewelry, hats and signs. Including some vintage pieces for a vintage flare.
One friend purchased teal cancer awareness bracelets to share with everyone. My daughter made wine glasses with 'Wine and wigging with Jami' on them for everyone to take home. Well... and to use for a toast to good health, happy life and the blessing of friendships and family.
We all took turns trying on wigs and took some glamour shots. Everyone had so much fun and may have found their new hair style at the same time. But seriously, we turned a sad trying time, not because of the hair loss, but the continuing uphill climb, into celebrating life with a fun experience while making lots of memories. Making light of the situation when we could.
Because that's what we need to do. And can after all, keep control of the situation in a different way. One way by keeping it positive and have fun. Our body and mind need that when it's working so hard not to stall out. With our friends and loved ones who are there behind and alongside us pushing or carrying us through. Making it all possible by making sure there’s fuel in our tanks to keep us going. And pitching in to change the flat.
No words can express how thankful I am, how humble I feel, how blessed I have been not just now, but in the last two years and counting. Especially to know, in one way or another, we're all in this together!!
Which is why I wanted to share this idea in particular. Whether you've already been over this speed bump, or about to cross that road. Maybe you know of someone that needs a mental pit stop from the stress treatment brings. Even the diagnosis alone.
This can be used as a jumpstart to begin this new journey, even just to get over that start line.
More importantly it helps them (us) feel like ourselves again after so much has been taken away. A different spin on a well-deserved pampered makeover. With options on hand to change things up when needed and wanting.
What a wonderful and personal way to share support, comfort and love to someone you care for while reminding her that she is still, and now even more beautiful than she ever has been. And sometimes ya just gotta get wiggy with it.
Small cell cancer of the cervix is a very rare type of cervical cancer. It is a neuroendocrine cancer. These are cancers that develop in the hormone producing cells of the neuroendocrine system. Around 3 out of 100 cervical cancers (3%) are this type. Small cell cancers tend to grow quickly.
Neuroendocrine tumors are cancers that begin in specialized cells called neuroendocrine cells. Neuroendocrine cells have traits similar to those of nerve cells and hormone-producing cells. Neuroendocrine tumors are rare and can occur anywhere in the body.
Note from Tim: Thank you Jami for your willingness to share and inspire! If you have a personal story related to the cancer experience that you would like to share with our readers, contact Tim!