Who would ever think that a young mother with a toddler would have to deal with breast cancer? It happened to Sue Glader, a 33-year-old wife, mother of a 13-month-old son, and freelance copywriter. She survived in stride with every step of her cancer – from diagnosis, to surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – and it only made her more determined and stronger. She became a breast cancer survivor with a mission – to help other women who would “walk in my shoes.”
In hopes of educating herself on what to expect during her cancer journey, Sue read many books and articles only to feel terrified and traumatized from the content. She decided to use her talents as a writer and her experience as a breast cancer survivor to publish a story that was realistic but not frightening. Her article turned into “Nowhere Hair,” a children’s book that uses a hip and beautiful bald mama to explain cancer of a loved one to children.
The little girl in the book knows her mom’s hair is not on her head anymore so it must be somewhere. After searching all around the house for it, she learns her mother is undergoing cancer treatment, but she still is the same silly, attentive, happy mom; just very tired and sometimes cranky. In the book, Sue explains hats, scarves, wigs, baldness in public, and why it is important to be nice to people who may look a little different. What is inside of us is far more important than how we look on the outside. Being bald is a time to be brave, bold and beautiful.
When talking with your children about your illness, be honest but reassuring, Sue suggests. Have age-appropriate conversations. Get into the mind of a child. Since her son was so young when she learned of her diagnosis, Sue was most worried about how he would react to her baldness so she took him with her to the barber to watch her head getting shaved.
Kids are not judgmental, they are curious. Take them along for the ride – physically and emotionally. Reassure them they cannot catch cancer, and neither can Dad. Relieve them of their worries. You can tell them your hair is falling out because the medicine is working. Let them know you are still there for them. You may not be able to drive them to soccer practice, but you will be home waiting for them.
Talk with your kids, but do it in small bits, not the “let’s sit down and talk” conversation. That will scare any child. Make them part of the journey. If the family is together, mom will not feel so alone.
If readers can take away one message from her book, it is this, Sue points out: treat people kindly, treat them the way you want to be treated. You still are an amazing, creative, powerful woman but with no hair!
And take the time to talk with other women who have walked in your shoes to gain perspective.