Friday, August 5, 2011

Hot Cocoa Healthy

A Cocoa Chronicle Vignette

Luscious, lovely locks, they are any woman's crowning glory, be they long and luxurious, cut short and spiky or even tender, perhaps tough, curling tendrils. Hair is serious business for women, but especially for women of color. Hair sets the tone and sets the bar for beauty among women of color and can often speak volumes of each's personal politics, agenda, tastes, preferences and/or style. 

Hair, like body image, is a blank canvas of creativity for many women of color that is used boldly or conservatively at will, and often for affect. Hair can also be a harbinger, heralding details about a woman's health.

Hair and hairstyle 'flava' was the topic du jour, sipping hot cocoa yesterday morning with my mother. We were looking at and talking about celebrity manes. Specifically, I was considering Beyonce's white chocolate blond, Tyra's cinnamon-mocha red and Naomi's dark chocolate brunette, tresses.

I relished in the moment sharing a cup of one of my more exotic, hot cocoa elixirs – NibMor Organic Drinking Chocolate, Six Spice -- with her, which, she enjoyed while I had a more old-world cup of Payard Chocolat Chaud avec Pepites de Chocolat Ameres, laced with cocoa beans. My daughter who came along to join us a bit later sipped a cold Cola Cao, the Spanish equivalent of Nesquik or Ovaltine, she brought back from her recent trip to Spain visiting her Spanish relatives, my former in-laws. It was early morning and driving to a Starbucks for coffee wasn't an option. It was also my first day home from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center 

In June of this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And on August 1, 2011, I underwent a unilateral, modified, radical mastectomy with axillary lymph node dissection. In plain English, a few days ago, I had a mastectomy to remove my left breast.

Diagnosed only a few months ago at another hospital, the procedure was the a result of a second opinion consultation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. It was through this consultation that I was afforded the option of a unilateral, as opposed to the bilateral, mastectomy, as originally prescribed. 

After what was considered an extended-stay in the hospital, I had been released, was resting comfortably on this morning after two, exhausting and nauseated days. I was not simply enjoying, but really savoring, the cup of sweet stuff like never before. Curled up on the sofa, I was warmed and comforted by hot cocoa, among the first foods I was able to keep down. Our talk of celebrity hair styles centered on cranial prosthesis, also known as wigs, and which brand and style I might select.

Now, preparing for chemotherapy, I am contemplating the next phase of my treatment and how to own my experience, embrace the forthcoming changes in my appearance, while continuing to love my body and myself back to good health.  

Much has transpired over the weeks between my first diagnosis and my procedure, about which I will write in subsequent posts. And still more, new things are yet to come. 

Now through to the first part of my recovery, in the days ahead, I'll be writing about most all of this experience, looking at breast cancer and treatment from the perspective of a woman of color, my point of view.

While cancer is cancer, I'm finding out that there are cultural differences, considerations specific to ethnic body image, and socio-economic challenges worth writing about as well as rich resources of spirit, hope and friendship that are only just beginning to unfold.

© 2011 Valerie Williams-Sanchez. All rights reserved.

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