A few years ago, I made a change in hairstylists. Crazy. I know. As any woman can tell you, switching hair stylists is a big deal. A woman's crown is her hair, right? And, my crown couldn't be trusted to just anyone, but there I was trusting just anyone with my hair. Nerves were on edge as I arrived for my appointment.
The stylist I'd been assigned, Kayla, was absolutely adorable with a pleasant smile and gracious spirit. We made small talk and got to know each other while she clipped away. Fortunately, that first appointment ended with a fantastic haircut and a date set for the next.
About a year ago, Kayla took some time away and during that time I had to have someone else to cut my hair (they did okay, but it wasn't the same - you know how it is). When Kayla returned, I didn't feel it was my place to pry into her personal life in order to discover the reason why she had taken a leave. I figured if she wanted to talk about it, she would.
Then, at my appointment a few weeks ago, she mentioned she would need to take another leave of absence. This time around, I decided to ask her about it, but I'd get at it in a round about way by asking if I could interview her for The Worthy People Project Blog. She agreed, so I interviewed her while the color set in my hair. (Yes, people, I color my hair).
[Sarah]: Why did you become a hairstylist?
[Kayla]: I was passionate about hair and seeing the change it could make on somebody.
[S]: So, it’s really about people?
[K]: Yeah, probably.
[S]: Do you ever get grossed out by having to get so up close and personal with people?
[K]: Not too often, but yes.
[S]: Tell me about a time when you were grossed out?
[K]: At school when I had to do a pedicure. This person had a really gross toenail. I can't even describe it. I'll throw up. I don’t like feet. I don’t do pedicures anymore.
[S]: What is the most exciting thing that has happened today?
[K]: Playing 'spy' with Jackson [her son] because he got a new spy kit.
[S]: Think of your childhood. What is the first thought/memory that comes to mind?
[K]: I thought of picking rocks in my dad’s field. It wasn’t the best so I’m not sure why I thought of it. I have no idea. Probably because we did it everyday.
[S]: Did you get paid for it?
[S]: How much?
[K]: Probably $6 per hour. My dad used it as a tax write-off. That’s a farmer for you.
[S]: What is the last picture you took on your phone?
[K]: A picture on Lake Superior. Jeff [her husband] and Jackson were kayaking.
[S]: What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?
[K]: I don’t know. That’s tough. Maybe…well it wasn’t said to me, but someone told me about it. My grandma told my boyfriend (at the time) that out of all the grandkids, she saw the most of herself in me.
[S]: Woah. That's a big compliment.
[K]: It was.
[S]: What cheers you up?
[K]: Probably…it would be Jackson, my son; and, meditation and prayer – anytime, anywhere.
[S]: I feel pretty bad that I’m a pastor and I would say “wine and chocolate.”
[K]: Well, wine is pretty good, but I have to stay off that. I have to stay off sugars.
[S]: What problem do you wish you could solve?
[K]: I wish I could give everyone the key to good health.
[S]: What is your greatest struggle?
[K]: A cancer diagnosis.
[S]: Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry to hear that.
[K]: Yeah. In August last year, during a checkup, they found cancer cells. I had to have surgery last October to remove the cancer, but I didn't do radiation or chemo. In June of this year, during a follow-up scan they found more cancer. This time I went though chemo and radiation and will have another surgery very soon to remove more cancer. The hardest part about all this is that I'm not able to have any more children. Then after finally coming to terms with that I find out there is more cancer. That has been really hard. Surgery last year was supposed to be the end of it, but now to hear that I have to go through it again has been devastating.
[S]: How have you talked about this with Jackson?
[K]: We told him this time around that I have cancer. We didn’t tell him the last time. We told him I had surgery, but that was it. This time around I had to go to the doctor everyday, so we had to tell him.
[S]: How has your husband handled all this? You haven't been married that long, right?
[K]: When I found out I had cancer my husband and I had been married just a month and a half. It’s been tough, but I appreciate him more because of it because he’s been so supportive. He’s patient. When I get down he’s the one that is positive. Having children was a dream of my his, but we are considering adoption or foster care.
[S]: So, what now? How are you handling all of this?
I want to get to the place where cancer isn't on my mind a lot. I try to redirect my thoughts. I think about the fact that God is so powerful. More powerful than this.
Last year before this happened, there was a sense of naiveness. I woke up and I never thought of this stuff happening. Like it would be awful, but it could never happen to me.
It bugs me a lot more now when I hear people complaining about things. 'You have no idea how easy your life is,' I what I want to tell them. Constant complaining drives me crazy. The "not-patient" person in me gets angry.
I’m definitely not doom and gloom, but there are moments. I’m not super positive or super negative – somewhere in the middle.
S: What advice would you give to other people facing a cancer diagnosis?
K: I would hope they have faith in God, because I can’t imagine not knowing what was waiting for me at the end of life; if that should come sooner rather than later.
Other than that I don’t know what advice I would give.
Sugar feeds cancer cells. Stay off sugar.
What amazed me most about this conversation with Kayla was that at no time, either last year or now, would I have guessed she was facing such a serious diagnosis. She has always been cheerful, kind, gracious and caring as if nothing in the world was bothering her.
Kayla is someone like you or I. She works, she has a family, she grew up on a farm, she lives a quiet life. She just happens to be facing a very serious health concern at a very young age. Yet, she is proving resilient and strong.
Truly a person of great worth.