Posted by: April Hawks | January 31, 2017

What’s with all the Nipples?

http://remyflagg.com/whats-with-all-the-nipples-female-sexualization-in-comics/

What’s with all the Nipples? Female Sexualization in Comics

When I was, oh maybe three or four, I was introduced to my first super heroine. (I was still enamored of Super Grover, don’t get me wrong.) She-Ra was a bad ass that matched the things her brother, He-Man could do. She had a sword that transformed her from Adora, to her alter self, She-Ra. She had a witch that worked with her (who, by the way was stereotypically witchy: Long nose, eccentric, the hat- everything) She-Ra’s sword was amazing in that it could transform itself at her will to any item she needed at the time. Sometimes a shield, sometimes grappling hook- whatever she needed. She-Ra was also wicked strong. She moved giant boulders, carried people and so much more. She was a role model in a time when Barbie was considered ideal, with her kitchens and heels and dressed.

Here’s the thing about She-Ra, though. The target audience was young people. Poor She-Ra, badass extraordinaire, had to strut around in a skirt that barely covered her ass, and a halter top, in addition to some boots with giant heels. Granted, she rocked that, but why should she have had to? Also, her costume was mostly white, which I get is a nod to her purity, but she doesn’t stay in She-Ra form all the time and she got into situations that should have left it nasty. And yet, her hair was always immaculate, as was her costume. Most of these questions occurred to me much later in life. And I know, I know, the magic of comics and television.

***

I grew up a bit and was introduced to Archie Comics. To begin with, I have to say that Archie’s two love interests, Betty and Veronica, were curvy and often seen in bikinis and tight tops and jeans, or mini-skirts. They are perpetual teens, that have changed fashions with the passing decades. As a pre-teen and a teenager, they were role models that I read about over and over and I got a new issue every time that they came out. But they were typical High Schoolers and yet so very far from it. I went to public school and a small fraction of the populace looked anywhere close to the girls in the comics. I knew I never would achieve that, but at the same time I really would have liked to. Again, they were the ideal seventeen year olds, but only to someone that never had to actually be around real seventeen year olds. Part of being a teenager is learning that the standards set by the media are in no way realistic, but it is a difficult battle to fight and it is a daily struggle for so many. With the target readers a group that is typically insecure and many of which have issues with their own bodies, even venturing into body dysmorphic disorder, it is an unfair precedent to fight against.

Now, from the same Comic Empire, comes the woman that is infatuated with Jughead. Her name is Big Ethel. She is taller than most of the Riverdale High students, earning her the nickname. She is plain, gangly, and often the object of Jughead’s ridicule and rebuffs. He comments on how annoying she is and though she is constantly trying to win his affection, he is indifferent. To be fair, Jughead is in love with food in all forms, but still. The one not drop dead gorgeous girl fights and fights for the interest of the guy she wants and Archie has the choice between curvaliscious girls that fight over him. Sigh.

***

In order to really dig in and make sure that I was remembering the right things about the right heroines, I did a quick search on female super heroes. I regret it. I saw images of She Hulk (which, let’s be honest is a stupid name for a character who is bad ass in her own right, but the name implies that she is nothing more than a counterpart to the Hulk, and therefore not really even worthy of her own original naming. But I digress) in a freaking leotard that is practically cut to her belly button and is cut way up to her hips. It reminded me of a male wrestler’s costume and they don’t have to worry about their boobs popping out.

Then there was Elektra, who was a fascinating character with real depth. She had OCD, big time, and yet she still wore slinky skintight clothes while she was chasing bad guys. But the thing is that in these comic universes, none of the guys even notice that the costumes show almost all of the women’s bodies. I attribute that to the fact that they are all so used to seeing women bouncing around practically naked. In real life, when women dress like the heroines, they attract gawkers because…well…BA-BAM. Comicon? Girl skin all over.

Super Girl, in the Television show, has a spandex unitard/ footy pajamas reminiscent of her predecessor, Superman, but her boobs are squished in and pumped up so high, the damn things are practically chin rests. Her breasts would be just as effective tucked tight into her suit and out of sight as much as skintight material will allow. They don’t do anything to aid her in her pursuit of evil. It isn’t like she is a Fem-Bot with laser shooting titties. Unless I missed that episode.

Black Widow is another completely competent, ass kicking, no shit taking woman. And the costume she wears in the movies has coverage and purpose. She can do amazing things, but she uses her body to do them, so it makes sense that her clothing fits her so closely. Loose clothing would be a disadvantage. But she has a zipper that goes all the way up in the movies, and yet it is strategically left open just enough to show her cleavage crack. Again, unnecessary.

***

The picture I have included for this piece is a comic heroine from an obscure comic that a friend introduced me to about fifteen years ago or so. I was a bit eager to read them partially because I am pagan (identified at the time as a witch,) And my middle name is Dawn. Also the protagonist is a redhead. I love the storylines about Dawn: Queen of the Witches, but she literally walks around in leotards that crawl up her butt and she has permanently erect nipples, no matter what she wears. She clearly runs free from bras. That last part, though, I totally understand. The perma-nips have no purpose other than ogling. She is such a highly sexualized character and most of the pictures of her, even in the process of developing her as a character, are pinup style and sexual poses. I literally had to, in my head, separate her outfits from the storyline in my head. That being said, I have dressed up as her on Halloween several times. From the neck up. No way would I wear those outfits in public, even if I didn’t live in sometimes-snows-on-Halloween Maine. I like her makeup and her hair, which, though totally superficial, intrigue me because of the weeping left eye.

***

Final Fantasy games are another example. In FFX, Rikku is a race called Al-Bhed. They go diving for wreckage from the world that existed in previous times. Again, she has a full body suit that works for the character, logically. Though it is tight, that is a benefit when one is prowling through water filled metal debris, where other, looser clothing might get caught on something and be a liability. Once again, however, she has a lot of boobage and her zipper is conveniently low enough to show it off.

Final Fantasy X was a great game, despite my small amounts of anger over the depictions of the female characters. I understand that the native society of the game designers differs from ours and that may explain, though not forgive, the issues I had. Final Fantasy X-2, however, made my blood pressure rise. The main characters are female. Super bonus, right? And they are the same characters that I knew from Final Fantasy X. Yay, again! Then I started playing. In order to increase your abilities, you have a dresssphere. Translation: You have to change your clothes to change your powers. Unlike in other final fantasy games, where you level up your own skills by earning the power up and it just happens to the character itself. Other than armor, and weapons which can also level up. No, the increase in FFX-2 of abilities revolves all around the clothes the women wear, not the women themselves. That is the stupidest thing I can think of.

Women in real life deserve more credit than to be evaluated on the clothes they wear. By extension, the heroines that we should be able to relate to for who they are and what they themselves can do. We need heroines that show depth of character rather than depth of cleavage cracks. We need relatable, talented, realistic people that can overcome obstacles and not have their boobs clear those obstacles three whole seconds before she does. And little girls deserve all that too.


April Hawks lives with her husband and three of four sons. She spends far too much time on Pinterest, gets really weird ideas for stories from her crazy dreams, her kids, her husband, and strange synapses firing in her brain. She writes speculative fiction in both novel and short story form. She lives in Maine in a teeny, cozy town.

Amazon page April Hawks
Blog : https://aprilhawks.com/

Posted by: April Hawks | November 16, 2016

The Continued Repercussions of Childhood Cancer and Chemo

Today, I am attending a meeting to talk about assessing Spencer for either an IEP (Individual Education Plan) or a 504 plan, similar but for Medical situations.

My Seven year old is struggling with socialization, stubbornness, organization, concentration. His teacher thinks ADD might be in play, but the problem I have is that I may never know if he inherited it from his father, as his brothers did, or if he got it as a result of the years…years of toxins in his body. Pills, Steroids, needles, Lumbar Punctures,  antibiotics, so many things. HUNDREDS of treatments. Thousands of pills. Pills I was warned not to handle with bare hands (I ignored this. I’d be damned if I was going to feed something to my three year old that I was too afraid to handle) IV chemo. Hell. He went through hell.

photo spencer's medical file.png

This is his medical file from the three years. Medication charts, an Advanced Directive. I had to sign a fucking advanced directive for my three year old. That, he never knew. There was a chance, though rare, that he would die, either from the chemo or complications that he could get from the fact that his immunity was tanked. I had to face the fact that my kid was potentially going to die. He didn’t. But I know many grieving parents from many different cancers.

My son faced these challenges with a bravery that he taught to me. But he may continue to face obstacles for the rest of his life from the treatment that got rid of his cancer. And it breaks my heart. So I am going into the meeting with information from the chemos, the side effects that may not present for years. The picture of the files. The advanced directive. A book talking about life after Childhood Cancer. I am going armed, prepping for battle and hoping there isn’t one. We’ve fought enough of those already. And we will have more to come.

Posted by: April Hawks | November 15, 2016

It’s a distraction, Kind of

I am participating in Nanowrimo this year. I’ve fallen behind, both in the proposed wordcount and my personal goals for various reasons: doctor appointments, illness that I have, illnesses my kids have, Kids being home from school and commandeering my computer among them. But today is catch up day.

I’ll be escaping into my epic fantasy novel and Merlin as a distraction from the political crazy, to some extent. However, I will still be checking in occasion. Today is a day to relax my brain and let my fingers dance on the computer. I am excited.

 

Posted by: April Hawks | November 14, 2016

Ignorance is bliss…just kidding you suck

People are scared for their basic human rights. They are afraid because the President Elect has expressed racist, bigoted,  and misogynistic views. He has said vile things about many, many demographics. And he was elected.

He has emboldened racists to come out and spray paint swastikas on churches, Heil Trump has been painted on walls, but there are people that are flat out ignoring it ,saying that it isn’t riots [so it is ok, apparently.]

Trump has appointed a white supremacist to his cabinet.  ‘Nuff said.

I have been called ignorant (two seconds after I posted a long comment with lots of facts and points so clearly she didn’t even read the damn thing but whatever) a loser, a dummy. These have been responses to well worded fact based comments. But apparently I am the problem. Cause thinking.

But in light of an argument with pesky facts, the names come out. Ignoring facts doesn’t make them (or me) go away. Changing the topic of conversation about things the president elect has said to “but Hillary…” is the wrong choice to make for several reasons. First, the conversation was not about her. It was about him. that is like holding out a shiny object that you think will distract me from the real point. And I can see that. Sometimes I will indulge the topic switch.

But, seriously! Names as an argument? That’s not exactly a well thought out response, just saying. Like I have no fucking idea what to do other than to keep presenting facts and examples. So that’s what I am going to do. I will combat the pretend it didn’t happen with proof that it did. And so I will keep exercising my First Amendment right. And I won’t be silenced by names or counter intelligence. Besides, the conversations amuse me because they all turn ridiculous at some point.

 

Posted by: April Hawks | November 10, 2016

Time to Think

I am watching the television show Salem and drawing some interesting parallels to the election results. I have seen, since the ballots were counted, that some people see this as carte blanche to hurt those that are different, that they do not like or that they don’t see fit to have basic human rights. One of my friends, gay, had the shit beat out of him on election night. I would like to say that, as a country, we are better than this. Many are. But many are not and some are worse. It is sad but it exists.

We, those of us that find it appalling, those of us that believe all are equal, those that see beyond color, religion or lack thereof, sexual orientation, to see life, see People, that are the Sacred and Divine, we need to remember that we are still here, prominent, with voices, with actions, with love, with grace and integrity.

I said many things yesterday. And I stand by them. They were expressed in fear, in sorrow, in anger, in disappointment.

Today, I will try to be better.

My kids were sad when they were told that Trump had been elected. I told them the same thing that I told others when they insulted the current President. It is also the thing I must tell myself. Donald Trump was elected to the highest office in the country. Whether I like him or not, agree with him or not, think his personality is abhorrent, I will respect the Office he will serve. Though I may speak out against repugnance, as is my right in America, I will try to look past the man himself and endeavor to respect the office. That is all I have to give. It is all I can do.

 

Posted by: April Hawks | November 9, 2016

What the hell, America?

The next thing I am going to say usually is said along with some bigoted bullshit as a way to prove that the speaker isn’t a bigot, but that is not the case.

I have black, white, cis, trans, female, male, bi, gay, brown, polyamorous, amazing friends. And we, as a country, failed them-us. We failed us.  Much like the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I didn’t vote for him.” Much like the elections- both- in Maine that elected Paul Lepage, I am saddened and horrified that this happened. Lepage won by split votes among the other two candidates. He had more. And it is killing our state.

All the progress that was long overdue but finally realized during the Obama administration may very well be unraveled. All the rights that several communities gained may now be revoked.

And before you say “I didn’t vote for him because of all the racist, misogynist, whatever crap he spouted” I call bullshit. That is the only information that he gave you. He never revealed any plans for running the country other than building a wall and making mexico pay for it and deporting immigrants. He incited violence. He spoke hate. He said vile, hideous things. And he will be in charge of our military.

I have already heard of violence against a friend.

Last night I dreamed that Hillary won. I had fallen asleep to several states fallen to Trump, but it was early in the evening and I had hope. I told myself to be prepared for Trump to win, just in case.

My dream, though. My dream was beautiful. First of all, I got to hang out with the POTUS and the FLOTUS in a cabin with others and secret service hanging out. And he wanted to be friends on FB cause he thought I was cool. And I told him it would probably be easier to have him friend me cause NSA and all that. It was a dream, it was lovely.

And then, at the Inauguration, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, wearing identical outfits, got up on stage and they danced a choreographed and silly fun dance just enjoying the moment and celebrating. And it was a beautiful.

Then I woke, and the Washington Post App that is on my Kindle said “Trump Triumphs” And as I have seen the app do often, I was hopeful that it was from days ago and hadn’t changed. So when Chris came into the room to grab Spencer’s clothes for the day, I said “It happened, didn’t it?” The anguish on his face was enough, even without the nod he gave me. I awoke to a nightmare.

And so, I have been expressing my sentiments and condolences and sorrow online on FB. And here I am doing the same. My heart is broken for all the people that he expressed hate for. Including myself. I am a woman, after all. My heart is broken for the country. My heart is broken for my sister, who protested this monster and for our mother who raised us to know we deserve better (whether or not it sunk in) My heart is broken for my other sister. My heart is broken for my father who raised three daughters that now live in this world. Mt heart is broken for my brother. My heart is broken for my husband who fought for a country that just voted for a horror he disagrees with on all levels. My heart is broken for my boys who, at least for the next four years, will hear news reports of this horrible man. My heart is broken for all the people he has targeted. I am just all over heart hurt.

What I’m going to do today is run into the world of Shannara on the television and Whisperwood on my computer. I need to run away from this reality for a while. It hurts too much.

 

Posted by: April Hawks | November 5, 2016

Hello again!

It is that time again. It is November. It is Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) and I have been working on an Epic Fantasy called Whisperwood. The theory behind Nanowrimo, which I call “Ask Daddy, Mommy’s Working” month, is that if you write 1667 words every day, you will reach 50,000 words by the end of the month. It is day five and I am up to 8, 210 words so far. If you haven’t heard of it before and you are interested, www.nanowrimo.org has the info. You can track your progress, earn badges which are a fun incentive, and talk to others that are participating. And really, 1667 words is not a lot and won’t take long each day. And as you go, the site will tell you how many words to write each day to hit 50,000 and the projected end date that you will reach it. So that’s pretty cool.

The biggest benefit to me is that by the time that Nano comes around, I have usually petered out on my writing. Things come up: I get sick, kids get sick, hubby gets sick, summer vacation trips. A bazillion reasons not to write. And so Nano gets me back on track, to a good finish for the year. But in reality I should be writing every day and those excuses are just excuses.

I’ve participated a few times and never finished. As I may have mentioned on here before, I have a bit of a tricky relationship with technology. When I get stressed, things break. (My husband didn’t believe me either but after watching stuff go kaput around me for ten years, he is a believer.) So one nano, my computer just crapped out on me. Stopped. And I lost 10,000 words. I continued writing that year by hand, but I learned a lesson- BACK YOUR SHIT UP ALL THE TIME! Email it to yourself, dropbox, cloud…whatever. I was LITERALLY finishing up a word, thinking “I need to save and back up.” when the computer died.

Anyway, this isn’t going to be a super long post because I have some words to write on my novel. If you are already on the nano site or you sign up, I am april.hawks on there. You can add buddies.

 

 

 

Posted by: April Hawks | October 16, 2015

Exhalation and fear

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Yesterday was an interesting day. I have been silent on this blog for a VERY long time. In February of this year, Spencer and I spent ten days in the Barbara Bush Children’s hospital, due to a virus that created pus filled blisters on his fingers, which then got infected, blisters in his throat, difficult breathing associated with croup, difficulty swallowing from the sores in his throat,  fever, and low blood counts. After ten days, we were released to go home, which was wonderful because he had taken the full course of antibiotics while we were there. We still don’t know what the virus was, but it was horrific and Spencer was miserable. But we got to go home, finally.

Within days of being home from Spencer’s hospital stay, I got pain in my abdomen. I threw up. Then, I felt better. By that, I mean I was not throwing up. After a few days of reprieve, I was up all night with what I thought to be gas in my abdomen. Then, I threw up again. I was encouraged to go to the Emergency room to rule out appendicitis. I am grateful to the friends that pushed me to go. Apparently I have a high tolerance for pain, and what I thought was gas was really my appendix (which does NOTHING) deciding its job was too hard and quitting on me. According to the doctor, my appendix was ‘hot’ and he had to take it out. Immediately.

After an emergency appendectomy, I was sent home to recover. My appendix had been very close to bursting which is why I am so grateful to my friends. My recovery could have been much, much worse.

I tried to lay low (hahaha) with three kiddos at home and, at the time, a cat that thought my healing belly was the perfect place to jump onto and knead. She was wrong. At least from my end of it. She may have been right from hers.

Anyway, with all the crazy around me, despite my best efforts to stay calm and quiet and heal, my recovery lasted into about May.

June saw me gone most of the weekends. I went to Anthocon, in New Hampshire, and to shave my head with the 46 Mommas in Kansas City, where I hung out with my sister from another mister, Tiffany. Then, I went to New York City for the second half of the Wounded Warrior Program sponsored Writer’s Workshop at the Writer’s Guild of America East offices, where I also hung out with Tiffany.

July brought our whole family down to Indiana for three weeks, spending time with sisters, brothers, in laws, nieces and nephews. It was a busy time, with seven to eight kids in one house at any given time.

August was, thankfully, calmer. I got LOTS of cleaning and organizing done at home, Chris returned to Indiana to help install some hardwood floors, and much got accomplished.

School started. That brings evenings of chaos and homework.

Spencer turned six years old.

In September and October, I experienced (and indeed am still experiencing) a series of pinched nerves and muscle spasms in my back that produce moderately annoying pain to pain that I equate to the early stages of childbirth, where I couldn’t catch my breath to speak a sentence. Unfortunately, we already decided that I have a high pain tolerance, so I am not exaggerating. I have also since learned that I have slight scoliosis in my back. Fortunately, I was able to get some relief from a visit to the chiropractor.

Unfortunately, some dumb nurse in recovery after Spencer’s last Lumbar Puncture thought it was a good idea to wake him about thirty minutes in when he stirred a little. This caused an episode where Spencer was out of control and almost literally the embodiment of ten second tom from 50 First dates. He was upset about something, very very upset, and would get angry and sad about it. Ten seconds would pass and the cycle would start again. It was horrible. He had to be physically restrained to avoid him hurting himself or others. So I spent forty five minutes doing that until the anesthesiologist came over and administered propophol to try to reboot him. During this, I reinjured my back. Meanwhile, the nurse in question flitted away, chanting “I didn’t do anything” as she ran. So Spencer’s last spinal tap went out with a bang. And no, I am not saying I punched the nurse. But I did think about it.

October has been interesting, needless to say. I’ve been on pain meds a good amount of time, so scatter brained.

But I also reached over 40 thousand words in my first novel, so that is huge for me. I am back on track, after all the things life has thrown at me to derail me in 2015.

Yesterday, I spent a majority of the day at the Maine Children’s Cancer Program office, with Spencer. It was a milestone day. And the response to my postings on facebook are that I must be so relieved that this is over. And for me, it is only kind of over. Spencer still takes oral chemo until November fourth. November 5, is his first day in over three years that he will not be on treatment, or taking chemo, or waiting to see what his counts are to see if he can go back on chemo. So I don’t feel really “done” yet. We still have one round of steroids left. OY.

But, yes, him not being hooked up to an IV for chemo again is a beautiful thought.

There was even a ceremony at the clinic, where I read a plaque and Spencer rang a bell to signify the end of chemo. And I got a little choked up.

But even before we headed to clinic, I knew that relief was a very, very small part of what I was feeling. I have uncountable thoughts in my head and the minority are happy based. I am terrified. The thing that took the cancer away from my son will soon be gone. The meds that helped him get it gone are not going to be in his body anymore. What does that mean? It means I am terrified that it was only gone because he was on the meds and that now, it will come back. I know the doctors know what they are doing. I love them and all that they have done for us. But I am scared.

I feel terrible. I refuse to tell him that he won’t have chemo in his port ever again. I don’t feel like I can tell him that, and be honest. Because, the odds that he would get Cancer in the first place were not good. And he got it. There are decent odds that he will relapse with the same kind of cancer, or that he will get some form of secondary cancer from the treatment. And I would feel like shit if I told him he was done forever and I ended up a liar. I don’t want to lie to him and I am not confident enough that it wouldn’t be a lie. And that is a gut wrenching feeling.

I know that if he was diagnosed again, I could handle it. I could because I have. It is the scariest thing I have ever gone through. And we came out on the other side. But I know so many people, now, in this club that no one wants to be part of, that have had relapses, that have earned their wings, that have lost so much in the battle with cancer. I felt guilty, last night, for all the mommas and daddies that don’t get to ring the bell. That have funerals as the end of their journey. It breaks my heart for them. I don’t think that I even have words to express my sorrow for those families. I just have holes in my heart for them. For the angels. For their families.

The nurse, when I spoke my fear about lying to spencer, told me that I need to have hope. I am afraid to. It may seem silly, but I am. I look back on when Spencer was a toddler, and I was terrified about him going under anesthesia to have his umbilical hernia surgically repaired. And that fear that was so very real at the time, was minor, compared to waiting to find out the results of his bone marrow biopsy.

I am not minimizing ANYONE’s fears for their children’s health. Colds, pneumonia, surgeries, whatever it may be that is scary for you. That is still very real. I am not trying to one up anyone. I am just sharing my inner thoughts.

I also worry about what I am going to find out about who Spencer is as a person. Is he going to change some of the things that I love so much about him when he is done with the meds? For example, will he still read cookbooks for enjoyment when he is not on steroids? I am scared that so much will change.

I am used to the schedules, to the appointments. I am used to expecting that there will be an asshole in the recovery room that I have to argue with. I am used to fevers meaning ER. I am used to what the meds do to his body and what meds he needs to fix the things that are wrong. For upset tummy, he gets Zofran. For hurting tummy, famotidine. For pain, he gets his owie meds. These, I know. There are schedules, calendars, doses, and it has been by these things that we run our life. I know there will be replacements that can be made, but the structure of these things will be gone.

And so, swirling around with the relief that we are nearing the end of this three year journey- the one that actually in hindsight, flew by- I am terrified, and sad. And much more.

And of course, I am afraid that he’s going to get a fever. Fever was the first symptom of the cancer. And what if the fever means the same thing, but we miss it because he can take Tylenol to reduce it again? We caught it so quickly. I am scared to death we won’t again. But at the same time, I do know that the clinic will be there, and Spencer’s doctor (who will soon be the first phone call we make, instead of the clinic) was the beautiful woman that found his cancer in the first place. I have faith in them. But my fear is bigger.

I also know, that we have warning this time, in terms of the big change in our lives. When he was diagnosed, it was sudden and BOOM, we were in the middle of learning about this thing that he had- Cancer. This has been a three month transition. First, was the last Spinal Tap. Second was the final IV chemo. There will be port removal, then there will be the last meds. It is a more drawn out process.

We learned about what the numbers they gave me meant. ANC, Hemoglobin, Lymphoblasts, I kind of feel like I studied Algebra for three years as an English Major. What will I do with that info now? I mean, I can spout numbers in relation to advocating for childhood cancer research. So that is a plus.

I am not at all sure what the point of this post is, in terms of anything. I know that I wanted, in some small way, to share what is going on in my head. There is relief, yes, but so much more.

Posted by: April Hawks | November 25, 2014

HeartSongs

It is six twelve am and as usual on a Tuesday, I am awake and there is chaos running amok in my head. In the forefront is the song “Say Something.” I have no particular reason to have that song in my head, no particular relevance of it. It is just there, playing quietly as I compose this blog.

Then, underneath the song, I have bits and pieces of so much. I had an odd dream last night that I went in to have my head shaved and the woman did it with a straight edge razor and cut into my ear so she could shave the part behind my ear. I mean she told me to brace myself and cut straight down into the top of my ear about an inch to an inch and a half. So I have flashes of that particular dream and the phantom dream pains that I keep remembering.

Flitting through all of that, like a drunken swarm of bees, are the smaller “I have tos” that comprise my daily life and the less small ones (drunken hornets, perhaps) that comprise the next month and a half. “I have to finish cleaning for thanksgiving, which will be at our house” (sting) “I have to plan with the group that is coordinating the craft night at the school” (sting) “I have to help the boys get through another day and a half before break” (sting) “I have a party to plan for my sister” (sting) “then her wedding, for which we all need clothes” (sting) The drunken hornets are more insistent than the bees and a bit more alarming in terms of the time in which I have to complete the tasks. And surrounding all of this is the fact that an unexpected but much appreciated addition to all this MAY be on the horizon. In kind of an in my face (as it would be the first weekend in Dec) way.

But the first thing I did this morning, after waking Austin up to get ready for school, was log on to Facebook and drink my coffee. I noticed a few posts about feminism and gender stereotypes and I was all over commenting on those. I love posts like those because I get to either agree wholeheartedly with like-minded individuals, or I get to present logic in the face of fallacy. Either way, I enjoy it.

Here’s where I got snagged. I followed a link that led to the page for the MaxLove Project. I had the opportunity to briefly meet Audra Wilford at the 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave event in Boston in July. You may be familiar with her from her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel with her son, Super Max. He creates amazing things out of rainbow looms and Jimmy Kimmel helped them raise $100,000 by auctioning off a suit made from Rainbow Looming.  There was a lot of activity surrounding the shave event, so I was not able to sit down and chat with Audra, but she was there and I was there. She is in the running for L’Oreal’s Women of Worth campaign and a grant for the MaxLove Project. Though I was unable to converse with her other than a ‘hi’, I can see the influence of her caring around me. MaxLove donated hats to cover up our bare noggins after we went bald. They gave a twilight turtle to soothe sleep. MaxLove believes in a whole mind-body-sleep-food approach to health and fighting cancer. It is wonderful!

But I got caught up reading the stories. I am looking at pictures of children. Children aged the full gamut to teens and young adults. And some of the children for which the MaxLove Project has named their beautiful hats are still fighting. And some of them gave all they had in their fight. It haunts me, seeing little faces for so many reasons. For some, they won’t age any more than the photograph. For others, they are living after fighting a battle against things in their own bodies. Think of how sick you feel when you have a cold. When you have the flu. And we whine and we moan because we are so miserable. Now, imagine that the medicines that make you better, take that particular illness away, also make you feel worse. The original ailment is gone, but there are tons of other, new and painful symptoms. I am going to assume that you are an adult, simply because I am and that is how I am thinking of this. This walking thing, the thing you’ve been doing for a while? It is changed. It is made more difficult. You have pain in your legs and hips. Your ankles work different so your toe drops as you walk. You swing your leg from the hip instead of at the knee, like you used to. And that is in the easier cases.

In some cases the disease has caused loss of limbs, invasive surgeries, chemicals pouring into you every day. Steroids that change your mood, headaches. Needles in the spine. Needles in your chest where a port has been installed to aid in bloodwork and to get the chemicals straight to your heart to disburse easier. These are all things adults deal with and it is hard for them. Children handle it with courage, determination to not let it slow them down. With grace.

And yet, this monstrous disease still takes them. And I can’t even imagine. I hate that, for other parents, I HAVE to imagine to be able to relate in any sense.

I am not given to crying. I can count on one hand the amount of times I have cried about Spencer’s diagnosis. This is not bragging. I am not even saying that is healthy. I come close sometimes, though. And reading the stories on the MaxLove page has brought me close.

Every day, we live this reality. It is easier for our family, in many ways, than for other families. That does not mean this is easy. EasiER does not mean EASY.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.

My post, here, got long winded. I guess there are a few thoughts that I want to finish off with.

First…as you can see, my mind is chaos. Fragmented, probably, in some way.

Second…If you live in a colder climate, you need a hat, right? It’s getting to be winter, after all. Buy your hat, your friends and families’ hats, your neighbors’ hats from the MaxLove project. Each design has a story to tell. Heart wrenching, yes. But real. Help MaxLove fight back.

Third…even if you’re not buying a hat. You can donate to MaxLove or (or better yet, AND) you can donate to my St. Baldrick’s Campaign. I am a touch over the half way mark for the year. Please help me get closer to my goal. Childhood Cancer isn’t going away without help. Help us research for cures. Every dollar helps.

Posted by: April Hawks | November 23, 2014

Being Bald

I am coming upon the end of the year and my commitment to a shaven head. I will be purchasing new clippers so that I can maintain my hairless noggin so that I can continue with what I set out to do.

I rub my hand over my head. There is slight regrowth. To an extent, it feels like sandpaper or like when I run my hand over one of the boy’s newly clipped heads – except that on my scalp, I can feel the cool touch of my own hand. It is a feeling that is both familiar and foreign to me, still, after almost a month.

On July 27, 2014 my head was shaved. The proceeds I have been raising go to fund pediatric Cancer research. The bald head goes to raising awareness. I have a pin that says, “ask me why I’m bald”.

I get looks, curious looks. I don’t often wear my pin. I should though, because then people might understand, might even help. And that is, after all, why I did it. Part of the reason, anyway.

Another reason was to be part of something bigger. I was able to nationally bring attention to something that has become an integral part of so many lives.

Just within my family – limiting it strictly to the family my husband and I created – childhood cancer has changed the lives of six people. Each of us – my husband, myself, and our four boys – childhood cancer had made an impact. Like a meteorite upon the ground.

Then there are our parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, our friends. That is a number exceeding fifty people that have seen the effects of childhood cancer, stemming from the diagnosis of one little boy. Childhood cancer is far reaching.

And there are countless other families that have experienced what we have…or worse. Some of the mommas I was blessed to shave with are “Angle Mommas.” It’s not a beautiful term, but I can’t think of any pretty wording for parents that have lost their children to this disease. It is heart breaking.

The weight of this diagnosis has been on our family for almost two years, as I write this. Two years of feeling helpless, to an extent. Two years of fear. Two years of faith. Two years of joy. Two years of stress.

I have so little control over this situation. I know, based on the evidence presented to us, that the doctors know what they are doing, and so I have willingly given the reigns to them in terms of what meds Spencer gets. I like the results they have shown. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not stressed out during steroid week, when my four year old is angry for almost everything.

And my hair was wild. It was untamable. It was thick and plentiful. It was heavy. It was mine. I had control over letting it go. I wanted to shave because Spencer lost his hair. He had no choice. I did.

Each hair that was clipped, I realized today, was the representation of fear and anxiety I have felt over the last two years. I have not counted my hairs – that would be foolish and a waste of time. But I am willing to believe that for each hair that I lost, I was scared one time. That is a lot of fear.

My head is much lighter, physically speaking. And emotionally, too. My hair would upset me, often. It never wanted to do what I wanted it to. I would throw a bandana to cover it instead of dealing with it, as it was too short to ponytail and too long to leave loose because it would get in my eyes.

Now, it is one less worry I have. I’ve retired my bandanas and proudly show off my shorn head. I shaved for me, for my son, for the angels and the survivors, for the parents – and for the research. If we can raise money that helps fund the research that finds a cure, then no more mommas or daddies would have to hear the heart stopping words. “Your child has cancer.” My hair is a very small price to pay for that.

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