Greetings from CancerLand: Donations Gratefully Accepted

Alysa Cummings
Alysa Cummings

Donations.  I’m a volunteer in charge of donations for a local office of a cancer organization. So for a few hours every week, I sort through bags stuffed full of donations.  Cancer-related types of donations to be exact: wigs, hats, scarves, bras and breast prostheses.  Special items that cancer survivors often need and don’t have the money (or insurance coverage) to buy.  Things that help ladies look as good as they can after surgery and during cancer treatment.

Here’s the drill: I empty a bag of donations onto a long table, hold up each item and evaluate:  (Would I wear this wig?  Or is it too worn out to be recycled?)  Within minutes I have a pile of treasures that will eventually make their way into the hands (and in some cases onto the heads) of cancer patients who will make good use of them.

Donations.  I’ve done this work for more than a year now and it has a way of making me smile.  I like the feeling of serving fellow cancer survivors.  It feels good to give back this way.

But on occasion as I have sifted through a bag of donations, my thoughts have wandered.  (Who wore this wig?)  And I have consciously tried to imagine the wig belonging to a woman like me, a cancer survivor happy to have finally finished chemo and radiation. A woman well into recovery, now deciding to donate her wig since her hair has grown back.  I haven’t wanted to think about other, sadder possibilities.

And that strategy has worked wonderfully well.  Up until now, that is.

I spotted the bra first:  pale pink, almost like new, folded in half, one cup folded neatly into the other, poking out of the top of a brown Acme bag.  When I emptied the bag onto the table, two wigs slid out:  each short, brown, layered with auburn highlights.  I continued to inventory the bag’s contents: one silicone prosthesis (size 12), one lace trimmed sleeping cap, six headscarves (One silk paisley patterned scarf caught my eye.  It was long enough to wrap around your head.  Wouldn’t it look exotic worn with silver hoop earrings?), one donor note.

We acknowledge all donations with a thank-you letter, so I opened the note and read the handwritten words inside:  In memory of Susan P.

I was stopped.  Stopped cold.  Susan P.  I know Susan P.  I instantly corrected my grammar.  I knew Susan P.  Before she died.  She was in my breast cancer support group.

Memories of Susan flashed quickly through my head ending with the final image – a cold, rainy night at a local funeral home, waiting my turn to walk by her coffin and pay my respects to her family.

Donations.  I’m a volunteer in charge of donations for a local office of a cancer organization.  So after I grabbed a tissue and wiped away the tears, I picked up a brush, shook out and styled the first wig and carefully anchored it on a mannequin head.  Then I tied the silk paisley scarf around the mannequin’s neck.  For you, Susan, I whispered. under my breath.  For you, my friend.

2 thoughts on “Greetings from CancerLand: Donations Gratefully Accepted

  1. Having shared that rainy night at Sue’s service I know the “donation” carries with it her soft and gentle spirit.

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