As I was working on my new book, Materfamilias, I was diagnosed with an HER2+ form of breast cancer. My prognosis is relatively good: 85% of people who undergo the treatment I’m now in the middle of are still alive after ten years. But the possibility of being in the other 15%, along with the news that I have the CHEK2 genetic mutation, which raises the odds that I’ll get another cancer, has changed my sense of priorities. It seems urgent to me now to live every day as meaningfully and joyfully as I can. And as I strive to do so, I’m amazed at the spiritual gifts I’ve received from many, many people. Kevin was one of the first.
For Kevin Thurston
Will almost certainly take
The twelve-years’ growth I love to feel
Flowing past my shoulders, almost to my waist
The tresses that are as much a part of who I am
As an organ, or a limb.
Before that happens, I want to make a choice.
I don’t know your personality he says
But you’re having surgery in October
It’s breast cancer awareness month
So while we’re going short
Want to go—pink?
He opens the salon in the evening
And we make it a party
With friends and kids, my husband, his mom
The rabbi, her baby in tow
We say a blessing, drink some wine, and watch him work.
Under his hands it feels safe
Each snip of the scissors not a loss
But a step on a journey
A movement toward something new.
In the end, when I look up and see
My face framed by his fingers
As he arranges a tendril or two
I think: she is hot
She looks like she has chutzpah
And my children just laugh and laugh.
He says to come back Thursday
Because he’s a crazy colorist
And wants to pink it up even more
But I find his madness divine
I feel like Sarah
Giving birth when she thought it was impossible
Laughing with her midwives
Beneath a desert sky.
–Kimberly Gladman Jackson