by Carol Fragale Brill
Recently, I’ve received a lot of gifts with the slogan, FIGHT like a GIRL. They got me thinking about what FIGHT like a GIRL means to me.
As a little girl, I adored frilly dresses and ribbons and lace on my Easter bonnet, but since my teen years, I’ve never been a girly-girl. I like to look feminine, but I’m not big on accessorizing, elaborate make-up, or perfume wearing. I’m more a touch-of-lipstick-dress-for-comfort-left-over-hippie-sensible-shoes kind of girl.
So, it surprised me when in spite of everyone reassuring me my hair would grow back, my first reaction to learning I’d lose my hair from chemo was, “I have to have a wig, I can’t be seen without hair!” Before my hair even started to fall out, without considering other options, I got myself a wig.
Then someone asked me, “What exactly is it about losing your hair that has you so upset?”
Her question helped me realize my reaction was purely emotional. It’s not really about my hair. It’s about how much I value my healthy independence and determination and that when others look at me I don’t want them to see a hairless, sick, unable person. I want them to see self-reliant, determined ME.
Years ago, I had the privilege of attending a panel discussion about disabilities. One panelist was blind, one deaf, one a paraplegic, and another had speech and motor impairment from muscular dystrophy. Each of them held professional jobs—accountant, librarian, banker, computer technician. Their profound message has stuck with me over the years—Instead of disabled, think of me as DIFFERENTLY ABLED. If it looks like I need help, don't just do it for me, ask me. If I say I don’t need help, respect me and my independence and let me do it myself.”
That pretty much sums up for me what it means to FIGHT like a GIRL.
I am so grateful that my family and friends have offered me all kinds of help and support. For me, Fighting like a GIRL means learning to graciously accept help when I need it. And when I don’t, being able to gracefully say no thank you, I can and need to do that for myself.
It means letting go of female stereotypes, and trusting I can fight this fight from my comfort zone where I feel most like myself.
Fighting like a GIRL means it is okay if some days finding the courage to face the day means letting myself weep in the shower as tufts of my hair clog the drain or if tomorrow I need to take the wig off the Styrofoam head in my closet and wear it to feel my best.
And for today, Fighting like a GIRL means learning to rock the bandana and “pirate” wrap look because they take me back to my not-so-girly-girl roots and remind me I’m still ME.