To the Woman at the Bar Who Asked, 'Is That a Port?'
It was the Friday evening before New Year’s Eve. I had been experiencing a few health-challenging weeks recovering from surgeries and dealing with my various chronic illnesses. My fiancé asked me to go out for the night with him and his co-workers for dinner and a few drinks. Though I was not feeling the best, I decided it would be good to get out of the house and socialize for a few hours. I did my best to make sure my clothes and hair covered my accessed port, as I wanted to avoid talking about my health issues for the night. I took my meds, put on my compression stockings and left my wheelchair at home.
We went to dinner in downtown Detroit. Having GI issues, I was nervous to eat in fear of having a flare up in front of my fiancé’s boss and friends. I decided to give it a try. My stomach started having spasms like crazy. I took some meds and toughed it out even though I was feeling sick. (Side note: My fiancé is the most amazing man on this earth and puts my health first… Had I told him I wasn’t feeling well he would’ve taken me home immediately!)
Everyone decided to stop by the bar next door called The Sugar House. I ordered a cocktail even though I felt like I may get sick to my stomach at any point. As I sat there at the table, I realized that this was going to be my new normal for the rest of my days. For a few minutes, I had a pity party for myself in my head.
Just for one night, I wanted to be able to eat whatever I want, drink a few cocktails and not feel sick for a few hours. I went to the restroom. I started washing my hands and was completely out of it.
I heard your soft, sweet voice ask, “Is that a port?”
I looked down at my chest and saw my hair was no longer concealing my port and that you were in fact speaking to me.
“Yes,” I replied. At this point I was thinking maybe you were in the medical field or had experienced a loved one with a port.
But then, you surprised me.
You pulled your sweater down a few inches to show me the scar that was oh-so-familiar to me.“I just had my port taken out!”
The excitement in your voice instantly put a smile on my face followed by tears in my eyes. I was so happy for you to see the joy in your eyes. I could tell you had been through a tough battle, and having your port removed was the well deserved victory you had been hoping for.
Your excitement changed when you looked at my hair and said, “I’m so happy you have your long, beautiful hair. My hair grew back thin and like poodle.”
In that moment, I could tell you were feeling self-conscious about your hair. I simply said that I thought your hair is beautiful, as that was all I could think to say in the moment. You told me I was “too sweet” by complimenting your hair even though I could tell you didn’t think it was true.
But, this is what I really meant when I said your hair is beautiful:
You are beautiful — not just on the outside, but also on the inside.
You are brave — your scars (and your hair) tell a story of immense bravery and show the warrior you truly are
You are an inspiration — you inspired me to keep my spirits up and helped me realize I can win this fight, just as you did
We then shared a hug — the most legitimate, love filled, emotional hug that I have ever shared with a stranger. We both returned to our tables and went on with our night without even knowing each other’s name.
Though I wish I could have explained all of this to you while we were in the moment, I hope somehow, someway, you see this post. I may not know your name or much about the battle with illness you went through, but I will never forget our minute-long conversation we had together in a little bar in Detroit, Michigan.
You not only made my night, but you reminded me to always see the positive.
To all of those reading this, I ask you to remember that each person you meet is fighting their own battle. Always be kind. Always wear a smile. You never know whose life you may change in a simple exchange with a stranger.
This blog was originally published on Chronically Imperfect.