18.9.11

Peter Brady is now my spiritual guru. (An excerpt from "Bald in the Land of Big Hair")

This year marks a milestone (if not a millstone) 10 YEARS IN PRINT for my memoir Bald in the Land of Big Hair! While HarperCollins continues to sell the trade paperback, I did an indie release of the 10th Anniversary Ebook Edition, featuring bonus content, a foreword by Elizabeth Berg, and this fantastic cover designed by Chip Kidd.

I've received thousands of wonderful letters from readers, survivors, and high school and college students performing scenes from the book for UIL competition. Amazing. Humbling. I'm incredibly grateful.

Here's a little moment from the chapter called "Faith, Prayer and Platitudes":
Luckily, everyone with cancer is issued a Brave Sick Person Face. It comes with the wig. If your prognosis is really bad, you may even be upgraded to Saint Sick Person. It comes in handy, because the moment you’re diagnosed with cancer, you become a platitude magnet. It’s the truth. Cancer attracts proverbs like pocket lint on a Lifesaver. Pastel Precious Moments posters, plaques, and coffee mugs gather at your door like a gaggle of bug-eyed orphans. Aphorisms come flying from every direction.

People I hardly knew came up to me, saying stuff like, "The Lord never gives us more than we can bear” (although, in my experience, this seems to apply only to money and cleavage). Or "If you ask the Heavenly Father for bread, He will not give you a stone.” (Perhaps the problem here is that God is thinking of the banana bread I bake, which could easily be mistaken for stone). Or "You’re an inspiration to us all.” (I knew I must be looking really bad whenever somebody laid that one on me). And then there’s that lovely poem about footprints in the sand.

“So God tells him, “The places where there’s only one set of footprints – that’s where I carried you,’” someone would tell me, blinking back tears, and I would struggle to resist adding, "Yeah, and that big ol’ dent in the sand is where God dropped me on my freaking head!”

My personal favorite from The Big Book of Banality was – and feel free to sing along with me on this one – “That which does not kill us makes us stronger!” This is a little like saying that that which does not kill a seat cushion makes it a flotation device. But at least it gives us a Plan B to fall back on. After a while, I started getting this vision of searchlights, confetti, and the offstage announces saying, "Congratulations! You are the one millionth person to use that expression since Joni was diagnosed! What do we have for our winner, Don Pardo?

…Still, as the months wore on and my jaded exterior wore down, I was hungry for hope, craving for comfort. One day on television, I saw a little entertainment news blurb about the man who, as a boy, had played Peter Brady on The Brady Bunch and had recently been diagnosed with cancer. His TV siblings praised him for his positive attitude, and he boldly told the interviewer,”I got cancer, but cancer didn’t get me!”

I welled up and clutched the remote control to my heart. The first thing that came to my mind was,”I want to be like that. I want to be able to stand there with my dignity and my sense of humor intact and say cancer hasn’t gotten me.” The second thing that came to my mind was "Peter Brady is now my spiritual guru? I can sink no lower.”

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