Ready or Not the Hat is Off!

Tanya Gouthro is sharing her journey battling cancer
Tanya Gouthro is sharing her journey battling cancer
Tanya Gouthro is sharing her journey battling cancer
Tanya Gouthro is sharing her journey battling cancer

Overcoming Cancer and Getting on with Life

THUNDER BAY – Living – I am ready to get on with this living thing. Ready to move forward, get back to running, rip the hat off of my head and possibly abandon headwear of any kind permanently. Someone asked me if I would be holding on to my collection of wigs. The answer is absolutely not. (Well, maybe the pink one). There is a strong compulsion to rid myself of all of the necessary evils that chemotherapy and radiation and surgery created. I relied heavily on makeup during the and-now-all-body-hair-is-gone phase, and part of me wants to set as a goal going back to my granola years and eschewing all make-up entirely. The reality of my forty-ness will likely not allow for this to happen, but the longing to recognize myself as the person I was pre-cancer is a strong one.

I take pride in my appearance; I like to think I can pull off several different looks, and for the past several months I’ve worked very hard at pulling off the ‘I don’t have cancer’ look. I like to think I can go out in public and not be met with looks of pity or discomfort. It allows for me to feel a little bit ‘normal’, a goal which some will find mildly surprising, as ‘normal’ is a state I’ve often shunned. For the first time in my life, I actually just want to blend in when I’m out shopping for books, or grabbing coffee.

Or, as it happened last week, going through security at the airport. The ritual of taking off coats, jewelry, removing all of our fun little accents, including boots, isn’t a fun one for anyone. No one likes to have attention called to them with a line-up behind them. Some may beg to differ, but I’m fairly confident that no one really looks forward to being searched, or patted down, in public.

When I went through the motions on my way home from Winnipeg last week of taking my fun new coat with the leather accents, I felt good. I felt like I had pulled off a ‘look’. I had good boots on, my leather t-shirt matched the coat; I had attitude.

Until they asked me to remove my hat.

I immediately morphed. One moment, I was a confident, stylish, staring middle-age-in-the-face-with-a BRING IT kind-of-I-am-woman-hear-me-roar woman.
The next, I was kicked back to that agonizing moment as a 12 year old girl (whose skating coach has told her that no one with thighs like yours should wear shimmer tights) and I’m desperately trying to find a way to walk to the edge of the pool completely covered by my towel until I’m entirely submerged so that my grade-school crush can’t see my flaws.

Sometimes we all long to go back to better times. Nobody wants to return to that moment.
What I learned in that instant, however, was that we all have awful moments. As I removed my hat and mumbled my way through an awkward apology for my distinct lack of hair, and broke into a complete body sweat because I was being so exposed, the poor security woman in front of me was having her own awful moment.

I watched as she tried desperately to arrange the hat back on my head for me, pat-pat-patting my head as though I were her daughter she was trying to console. Apologizing, several times and I believe in at least two different languages, the woman was distraught at what had just transpired. What ended up happening was actually kind of a beautiful moment between two strangers that, despite my feelings at the time, likely went unnoticed by the majority of people there.

And, there it was – done. Not the way I would have chosen, not the way that poor security guard would have chosen, but the hat came off. Another hurdle conquered.

And my goal for this awkward period of time during which I kind of recognize myself, but not quite, will be to stop myself from apologizing for my appearance. It’s a work in progress. I am coming to understand that we all are.

To learn more about Tanya, follow her blog at

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