Ready for Life
Consider if you will, that you are 25 years old. You’re about to start a graduate program at a top ranked university in the country. You’re excited and ready for life! And then, you’re told those three irrevocable words “You have cancer.” – and life as you know it is no longer. In November 2010, that’s exactly what happened to Rebecca Hall, co-writer of the new short film, bare.
Single and ready to start her graduate program in veterinary medicine at UC Davis, Rebecca received news that she had Stage 3, triple positive breast cancer. Rebecca describes being filled with fear and feeling incapable of staying positive all the time. Staying positive and being strong are messages we are constantly sent (as cancer patients) and when it doesn’t fit with how we’re feeling, we find ourselves unable to conjoin people’s advice and our own experience, so we wind up feeling incongruent. Feeling incongruent is never good. It means it doesn’t fit. Which in turn can feel like we don’t fit.
Will I Still Be Me?
We are groomed from our earliest of days to connect our femininity with our hair. The thought of losing it, in addition to losing our breast(s) (another feminine feature of our bodies) can be more than many of us can handle with any sort of grace. If you are a friend of someone going through breast cancer and you’re reading this, please give your friend all the grace they find difficult to give themselves. THIS IS HARD STUFF. These are the sorts of things that make us call into question our identity.
This question, “Who will I be without my hair and breasts?” is a question Rebecca had to explore and she certainly captures these intimate thoughts in her film. It’s important that we have this conversation, not just for women in the cancer community either, but women everywhere. How do we leave behind the physical focus of femininity and step into our emotional feminine being? These are deep, difficult questions for a society that loves to focus on the external rather than the internal, where our truest selves reside.
The night before Rebecca’s first chemo treatment she made a decision that many women like her have made before. Realizing that she was about to lose her hair to chemotherapy, she enrolled the help of friends to remove her hair before the treatment did. Many women choose to do this because it provides them with a sense of control in a situation that often has us feeling powerless. We all want to be strong and remember that it’s just hair… but that’s naive. Losing hair and breasts is not just superficial, it’s life changing and can be incredibly dehumanizing. The presence of friends and loved ones who are willing to lay down their own life struggles and annoyances for YOU in these moments is huge. Rebecca recalls what her friends support meant to her.
My best friends’ mere presence and their willingness to listen, even if they didn’t know what to say – or sometimes said the wrong thing – meant the world to me as I faced my life-altering diagnosis.
That night, shaving her head, helped Rebecca process her emotions and accept that she was sick. This acceptance gave Rebecca the courage to face her diagnosis and ready herself (as much as she could) for what was coming next.
It’s Never JUST About The Hair
Fast forward four years and at just 29 years old Rebecca learned the cancer had metastasized to her bones and distant lymph nodes. Despite her diagnosis, she continued to work as a freelance medical writer and editor, as well as starting her own outdoor yoga company, Santa Cruz Nature Yoga.
Rebecca’s breast cancer returned again in November 2016 and this time it spread to her brain. She underwent an emergency craniotomy, followed by brain radiation. Rebecca spent her time recovering at home in Santa Cruz, CA with her husband and her dog, Harriet.
But that’s not the end…
A Short Film
Over the past year, Rebecca has been working on a short film, bare, with filmmaker Kerith Lemon. This short film is a retelling of her real experience with her friends when she empowered herself that night, before her first chemo, and shaved her head. It’s a raw and emotional experience that most breast cancer patients will relate to and an eye-opening experience for those that haven’t gone through it.
Rebecca hopes the film will serve as an honest conversation starter; to empower women with breast cancer and help them feel less alone. Which is why we chose to champion Rebecca and her short film. We too think it’s important that we build a community of truth telling and honest story sharing, so that we feel less alone. Alone is a dark place where no one wants to reside. We are creatures who crave belonging and company and acceptance. Rebecca is helping build that community along with us!
bare is also meant to inspire support for research, particularly for Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. It’s so important that we explore ways to improve AND extend the lives of metastatic breast cancer patients. Young women are the largest growing population being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. To that end, a fundraising page has been set up by bare to benefit METAvivor.
Now, without further adieu, The Underbelly proudly shares bare
You can follow Rebecca on her blog Cancer, You Can Suck It
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