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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
When Joni Rodgers gazed at her post-chemo face, she noticed a change. "That wasn't me.... It was...Emil Lonnquist! My paternal grandfather, fresh off the boat from Sweden." With horror and humor, Joni greets her post-diagnosis reflection -- and with the same witty dismay, she shares her story in Bald in the Land of Big Hair. It's a story about surviving cancer's many traumas: not only its shock and sorrow but its irritations and embarrassments, too.
Joni's treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma led her from surgery through an aggressive course of chemotherapy drugs. At first, Joni rejected the nightmare of chemo: "I tried to listen, but didn't feel like I was absorbing much as [Dr. Ro] laid out the gruesome possibilities in clinical nomenclature, couching blunt realities like 'barfing' and 'agony' in palatable terms like 'nausea' and 'discomfort.' " Ultimately, however, Joni's warm, goofy husband, Gary, encouraged her to accept her doctor's suggestion. With this decision came life -- and the death of a thousand small vanities.
The first of these, of course, was Joni's hair. And in Joni's home state of Texas, small hair is no small matter. "It's not much fun being a bald girl in the Big Hair Capital of America," Joni notes dryly. "A true Texan woman cruises down the aisle at Mervyn's like the Snoopy balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade; that bouffant would lift her right off the ground if her six children didn't have her tethered by the hand." Joni admits to the distress and shame that accompany hair loss, but with her straight-up humor she puts it in perspective. "I used to hate my hair because it was so ordinary, and I hadn't yet learned the value of ordinary things. I was so busy striving to be exceptional, I missed the dance of the everyday, the red-brown grace of the gloriously mundane."
Joni allows us to share in her experience of the full chemotherapy course: She describes how her favorite sex acts were affected by drugs, how her children coped with her paralyzing and often inexplicable disease, how her faith wavered and reasserted itself. "I'd always given away my time and efforts as easily as an old lady offers knickknacks at a yard sale, asking little and accepting even less.... Now, for the first time in my life, my life was at the top of my agenda." Joni's story offers readers an honest look at surviving cancer, and a new perspective on life's small matters. (Jesse Gale)