An excerpt from God Never Blinks
Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
The hat always came back, more faded yet stronger than ever.
Frank started it.
I had undergone my first chemotherapy and couldn't imagine being bald. Then I saw a guy wearing a baseball cap bearing these words: Life is good.
Life didn't feel good and it was about to feel worse, so I asked the guy where he got the hat. Two days later, Frank drove across town and stopped by my house and gave me one. Frank is a magical kind of guy. A house painter by trade, he lives by two simple words: Get to.
They remind him to be grateful for everything. Instead of saying, "I have to go to work today," Frank tells himself, "I get to go to work." Instead of saying, "I have to get groceries," he gets to. Instead of saying, “I have to take the kids to baseball practice,” he gets to. It works for everything.
The hat on anyone but Frank might not have carried the same power. It was navy blue with an oval patch that announced its message in white letters.
And life was good. Even though my hair fell out, my body grew weak, my eyebrows fell off. Instead of wearing a wig, I wore that hat as my answer to cancer, as my billboard to the world. People love to stare at a bald woman. They got a message back when they gawked.
Gradually, I got well, my hair grew back and I put the hat away until a friend got cancer and asked about that hat I used to wear. She wanted one. At first I didn't want to part with mine. It was like my binky, my security blanket. But I had to pass it on. If I didn't, the luck might run out. She made a promise to get well and pass the hat on to another woman. Instead, she gave it back to me to pass on to another survivor.
We called it The Chemo Hat.
I don't know how many women have worn it these past ten years. I’ve lost count.
So many friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Arlene. Joy. Cheryl. Kaye. Sheila. Joan. Sandy. Woman after woman passed it on.
When the hat came back to me, it always looked more tired and worn but each woman had a new sparkle in her eyes. Everyone who wore The Lucky Chemo Hat is still alive and thriving.
Last year I gave it to my friend and co-worker Patrick. He got diagnosed with colon cancer at 37. Patrick got the hat, even though I wasn't sure it could tackle any kind of cancer. He told his mom about the hat, how he was now a link in this chain of survival.
She found Life is good, Inc., the company that made the hat and makes other products with the motto. She called the company and told them the story of the hat and ordered a whole box of caps.
She sent them to Patrick's closest friends and relatives. They took pictures of themselves wearing the hats. All over his refrigerator he put up photos of college friends and their kids and dogs and lawn ornaments wearing the Life is good hat.
Meanwhile, the folks at Life is good Inc., were moved by Patrick’s mom. They held a staff meeting and challenged their employees "in the spirit of the Traveling Lucky Chemo Hat" to pass on their hats to someone needing a lift. They sent Patrick a photo of all 175 of them wearing a hat.
Patrick finished chemo in November. He was so lucky; he never lost his hair, it just thinned out. He never wore the hat, but it touched him. He kept it on a table at the bottom of the stairs where he could see that message every day.
It got him through the really bad days when he wanted to quit chemo and give up. Anyone with cancer has known those days. Even folks who haven’t do, too.
Turns out it wasn't the hat but the message on it that kept us all going, that keeps us all going.
Life is good.
Pass it on.