About two or three weeks before my diagnosis, we had a lice outbreak at my house. As a working mom, I was overwhelmed by the work of nitpicking three heads of thick hair, the vacuuming, and the laundry. I estimated it took about 20 hours of work to rid ourselves of that plague.
I felt so put out. I griped on Facebook and elicited much assistance and sympathy.
This is not my child. Not thick enough hair to be mine.
Plus she’s smiling while getting treated. My kids like to complain and say “Ow!”
When I got my diagnosis a few weeks later, my status update read:
Dear God, I’m sorry for complaining about the lice.
Fast forward 2 years later to this past week. My husband goes away on his first weeklong business trip since my illness, leaving me alone with the kids. He is worried –– we had assumed that my post-op pain would be resolved by now, and I am still fairly limited. I am worried –– several work deadlines have piled up for the week that he’s away.
He leaves Tuesday evening. I get the kids to school Wednesday morning and go exercise. As I am leaving the gym, I get a phone call from my kids’ school.
“Your daughter has lice. Please come get her.”
When I arrive at the school, my other daughter has them as well. We then check my little boy, and sure enough, he has them too.
I dash off a few emails to the people I was to meet with that day, canceling some, re-arranging others.
The kids and I stop off at the grocery store to pick up nitpicking supplies and stay-at-home activities such as cookie ingredients, mani-pedi supplies, and coloring books.
“Just think of this as our lice-cation,” I tell them.
I sit in the bathroom, skyping into meetings, picking my way through their piles of thick brown of hair while discussing readings with my students and projects with my colleagues.
The next day, I take them to a professional lice picking place. The girls’ hair takes over 3 hours apiece with the pros. I pay a ridiculous sum that I am going to try to get reimbursed by insurance. None of this daunts me. The kids go to school the next day, and my week has been seriously disrupted.
I don’t like to give cancer any credit for anything good. It is not a gift, and if it were eradicated tomorrow, the world would only be better off.
But there is no doubt that my trials over the past year have put minor plagues like this in perspective.
Lice are inconvenient, but you can bake cookies and watch movies while you deal with them. And nobody is going to die.
Nothing like getting plagued twice to recognize how much you have changed. Time off without fear of death can be a kind of vacation. I can ask for help and deal with the consequences later. I do not have to power through everything alone.