(Excerpt from “I’m Still Standing” which is a series of essays that were born out of my struggle with breast cancer in 2006-2007.)
Every time I think of Enid’s I hear a phrase from the old hymn, “There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.” So what, you may wonder, is Enid’s? And, surprisingly, this place of refuge is not a church or chapel or ministry center—it’s a wig store. Labeled with a cancer diagnosis, it’s where I went when I was struggling to cope with the idea of losing all of my hair.
Years ago, in the days when nurses wore those perky, white, starched caps, I had a short, curly, red wig. Keeping my long hair neatly up and under my cap was quite a challenge so I would hide it under the wig—much easier and quite a time-saver. But it’d been a very long time, and now it wasn’t for convenience—it was a necessity, unless I wanted to go around bald or wearing a scarf, thus branding myself as a cancer patient; and that idea just didn’t work for me—I wanted to look and act as normal as possible. I wondered if I could even find a wig that would look natural, so off I went to find the store.
Five minutes after I walked through the front door of Enid’s I felt like I’d entered some other dimension where it was party time. All around me were women with no hair, laughing, talking, and trying on wigs and hats, browsing through lingerie and swimsuits, checking out pretty pieces of jewelry and selecting make-up. Enid, a cancer survivor herself, and her staff were more like cheerleaders than sales ladies; encouraging everyone, patiently helping us try on style after style and telling us how good we looked, teaching us how to cope, answering questions, sharing their own experiences—they’d been where we were now. I can’t imagine a support group that would have been more helpful—it was as if everyone had checked their diagnosis at the door and entered an arena of hope.
Hope—an intangible orientation toward the future, expecting something that is not yet a reality—a belief that there can be a positive outcome even when all evidence says otherwise. Hope that is not seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But, if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24b-25) Hope is often what keeps us going in the face of adversity. It may motivate a rescue team searching a mountain for a missing hiker, a teacher working with a learning-disabled child, an unemployed man searching for a job so he can provide for his family, a terminally-ill patient looking for a cure, a lonely person looking for a friend—or me, looking for relief in the midst of my pain. There were times during my treatment when I identified with Job as he cried out to the LORD, “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient? Do I have the strength of stone? Is my flesh bronze?” (Job 6:11-12) But I knew I could trust God’s promise that, those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, (Isaiah 40:31) so I held on. And God did not disappoint me. One morning as I awoke I saw a vision of a blank sheet of bright yellow paper floating before my eyes and I was comforted, for I immediately knew without a doubt that this was him telling me that the next page in the book of my life was before me, a page full of hope.
The LORD also encouraged me with a living example of His love, described in Psalm 147:11, the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love, as I observed the joy of my son, Kevin, as he anticipated his wedding; and the look on his face as he watched his bride, Rachel, walk down the aisle to become his wife. Her hope was evident too—that of the bride preparing herself for her bridegroom, fully confident in his love; knowing that he would be there to welcome her into his home; to love her; to honor her; to protect her—and I remembered that we, the church, can rest in that same kind of hope because we are the Bride of Christ. And once again, instead of crying like Job, I was able to rejoice like David; I could find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)
I still go back to Enid’s. I use the excuse that I need to pick up some make-up or a scarf; but the truth is that there are a lot of places I could buy those things, and I really go back because I love to be there. I love to visit those amazing ladies who probably don’t even realize what a wonderful blessing they are. I love to see hope in action!