About My Hair: A Journey to Recovery

An inspirational book for chemotherapy patients
by Marcia Reid Marsted

Review: "About My Hair A Journal to Recovery"
By Doug Dix, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology and Medical Technology
University of Hartford

Marcia says her book is about her hair, and, in a small way, she is right. She had hair and then lost it to chemotherapy. But the chemo killed her cancer and, in time, she got her hair back. This book documents that loss and recovery. But Marcia is overly modest. This book is not about her hair, but her spirit. She fought uterine cancer and won - no small achievement. But that is not half her story. Ten years previous, she fought rectal cancer and won. And along the way, she fought and won against fear, grief, pain, embarrassment, and foes I can't even imagine.

What Marcia doesn't say - what she may not acknowledge even to herself - is precisely what makes her book important. No reader can fail to catch it. My job as reviewer is to make it explicit for those who haven't read her book, for those who are wondering if they should read it. Here it is: Marcia is a champion at coping and her book offers instruction and inspiration to all who face foes or worry that they might have to in the future.

"Some days I felt as though I just wanted to sit around and do nothing. I didn't allow that feeling to last long. The worst thing, for me, would be to let the cancer or the treatment take over my life. I would mentally pick myself up, and physically go do something. Work on my photography, go to the gym, call one of my daughters, drive into town to do a little shopping; anything to keep my mind and body from getting depressed. My doctor called it denial. Even today, I call it positive attitude. I have never believed in the logic in asking 'Why me?' or being angry at the unfairness of life. Why would I bother to focus on an obviously unanswerable question, wasting my time and energy? Better to get on with life...."

Cancer took Marcia's hair and her uterus and ovaries and her energy and physical strength and a good bit of her joy of life, but it never dented her spirit. When cruel death came to look Marcia in the face, she chose to be creative.

"I made a conscious effort to keep up with my art. Sometimes I had to give myself a mental push. It would have been easy to use my illness as an excuse to be a lump... I needed something to think about besides my various doctor and hospital visits."

Marcia's words and photos are interesting, provocative, beautiful, and optimistic. They tell of a spirit that isn't vulnerable to death and they give us reason to believe that we all share in that spirit. There's one more point - Marcia's book is about her husband - his love for her and her quiet gratitude for him. Its a small part of her small book and rather matter of fact, not sentimental, but eloquent in its testimony to the role of love in sustaining spirit and vice versa. There's even a hint that the two may not be different. Read this book. You'll finish it in a half hour and remember it for a lifetime. It's not about hair.

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