No Easy Way

April 28, 2015

Walk with Larissa Kwong Abazia, Vice Moderator of the 221st General Assembly, as she lives through cancer. This and other reflections will appear on the web page "Each New Day."



On Sunday, a congregation member from a church that worships in our sanctuary greeted me with a warm smile. She said, "Your scarf is beautiful. But did you cut your hair? Why wear it?"
I paused for a moment and said, "Oh, thank you. Well, it's because my hair started falling out because of my chemotherapy."
About halfway through my sentence, I could tell that she had registered (on her own) why I was wearing a scarf. Her face said it all and then she became apologetic. She was embarrassed and sorry she had asked.
I've come to realize that there is no easy way to tell people that I've got cancer. It's even more glaring now that I am regularly wearing hats and scarves to cover my head. But the thing is, I am not embarrassed that I had to shave my head a few weeks ago. In fact, it's been quite freeing! My morning routine has been cut in half and I don't have to worry about bad hair days anymore.
So a note to those to have or will cross paths with me: You don't have to feel sorry for me. I know the look of pity as people register that I am young and battling cancer. It's sad and hard sometimes, that's for sure. Yet I have hope. I caught this early enough that the prognosis is very good. I pray each day not only for myself or my own family, but for everyone who is battling an illness alongside their friends, family, and loved ones. The greatest gift is knowing that I do not travel on this path alone.

That's all the reassurance I need for now.

  1. Looking at the OGA website for updates on the Overtures in the hands of our presbyteries, I came across your recent entry. Larissa, I so admire your strength, character, and faithfulness. You have been handling tough situations with great aplomb and a sweet sense of humor! It will serve you well in your recovery. Funny story: I have a learning disabled gentleman in my congregation who became so excited when my "real hair" grew back after my cancer treatments ceased, that he still regularly "ruffles my tresses" on Sunday mornings and says, "Glad you got your hair back, pastor." It was suggested to me by a few well-meaning folk that I tell him to stop playing with my hair, as they felt his behavior was disrespectful. I told them not to worry -- if he is better able to comprehend by recovery by making a tangible connection to my resurrected locks, then so be it. God works in mysterious ways. And good news is good news, even if it comes in the form of a few tousled hairs. At some point, those scarves will leave your scalp for your neck, and will serve only as a reminder of a distant day of illness and struggle. May God bless you with healing, my friend. And may God bless your family with joy in your recovery.

    by Rhonda Myers

    May 18, 2015

  2. I was looking for news about Nepal for our church newsletter and found your journal so now, you get to be in the newsletter as well! Would just like to tell you that about 8-9 years ago my only sibling was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was editing an ezine at the time and decided I would journal his experiences. He loved the idea, even insisted I go with him to doctor appointments, tests and chemo. However when it came time to write the first month's entry, I froze -- couldn't write with my usual humor, couldn't be snarky, couldn't use any of my tools. This was grown-up stuff, it was real -- and I suddenly realized that I shouldn't do it because I didn't know the end of the story. He wouldn't let me off the hook, reminded me that he didn't know the end either, none of us did. So I went ahead and wrote that blasted story for several issues, and I learned how to be honest, even the night I was so angry I wanted to throttle him. I admitted it to however many subscribers we had nationwide -- and he laughed his fool head off. I learned so much about both of us doing that, and I learned a new side of God at the same time. I know the end of the story now, and I miss him tremendously -- but somehow, I enjoy reading those articles every time. I will pray for you, and also pray that your journal doesn't get too heavy.

    by Mary Cantrell

    May 2, 2015

  3. Dear Larissa, I am holding you and your family in my thoughts and prayers as you travel this difficult piece of the journey toward healing together. I do hope you always feel the strong network of Presbyterian love supporting you and God's arms around you. Peace, Amy

    by Amy Lincoln

    April 29, 2015

  4. I had breast cancer in 1991 at the age of 59. At the time I was teaching public school -8th grade science. I had to work and be at school each day as I had used my sick leave days when I had surgery,lumpectomy with chemotherapy followed by radiation. I would leave school during some unscheduled time, drive to hospital 19 miles away, get radiation and get back to my teens who were unaware that I was wearing a hairpiece. Look how long that has been and I'm still here giving thanks to God for another day to follow Him on this tremendous journey. Peace and love to you. dear one.

    by Hope Sheppard

    April 29, 2015

  5. Larissa, thank you so much for doing this blog. You are in my prayers but it is also good to know where you are on this journey so we will know how best to pray for you. Grace and peace, Judyt

    by Judy Ferguson

    April 28, 2015

Leave a comment