The Iceburg of Cancer

By Lorri Steer

Monday our local paper ran a cover story about a play that the local community college is presenting this week. It’s called “At Wit’s Start” and was written by a young doctor who found herself battling stage 4 ovarian cancer. It’s based on her Pulitzer Prize winning book. I can’t wait to see the show but I had issue with how part of the article was portrayed. My letter follows.

This is for all the women who are currently going through chemo and dealing with hair loss. I know your pain.

Thank you for your cover article on the upcoming Front Range Community College play “At Wit’s Start.” As a young women living with advanced stage cancer myself, I very much look forward to attending the show.

While Mr. Rochat’s article is well written, I take issue with one point. The caption on the “If You Go” photo reads: “Stephanie Roscoe has to shave her head every other day for the role of Dr. Vivien Wit.” (italics mine.) She chooses to shave her hair to add an authentic feel to character. A sacrifice for art? Perhaps. The same unwilling “has to” hair loss chemotherapy patients endure? Not at all.

I’m bothered by the implication that there is any kind of likeness in choosing to shave one’s head for a play and loosing one’s hair (including eyebrows, eyelashes and all bodily hair) in a medical gamble to save one’s life from a killer disease.

Please don’t draw parallels between the baldness a cancer patient endures and the shaved head of an actress. Cancer’s suffering runs deep and a bald head is just the tip of the ice burg.

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2 Responses to The Iceburg of Cancer

  1. Rebecca Hunt says:

    I’ve just regained enough hair to go out without hat, wig or scarf, following chemo for ovarian cancer. How I have raged at the injustice of losing my hair as part of a hoped for remission/cure/ned. To be facing a life threatening/ending illness, the harsh realities of chemotherapy and the never ending fear of a recurrence. I felt ugly and lost my confidence to face the world. An actor however well meaning has a choice, we do not. The comparison is contemptuous. A double decker bus drove through my life – I can still hear its engine revving and hope it isn’t going to reverse back through it again. That’s what living with cancer is.

  2. Spruce Hill says:

    Very well said!

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