Introducing new children’s book, Hair to the Queen!, by first-time author, mother and cancer survivor, Tamara B. Rodriguez. Rodriguez shares her writing journey below.
As nearly everyone knows, October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by the media and cancer survivors, alike. So, why is a first-time author and career-long accountant like me debuting a children’s book about cancer in November? It’s a long story.
My relationship with my breasts has been an emotional roller coaster, starting from my days as a busty teenager to becoming relatively flat-chested after I stopped breastfeeding my two daughters. At 34 years-old, I remember standing in front of the full-length mirror and nostalgically recognizing how much my body had changed over the past two decades.
A year later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Before my diagnosis, I felt independent and feminine. After my diagnosis, I felt weak and helpless. My doctors recommended a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. I would lose my hair and my breasts. I actually never thought about what it would be like to have my breasts removed; what would happen to my five and six year-old daughters if I died? I felt like I had failed them.
Thankfully, my fears never were confirmed. Children are resilient. They will surprise you and remind you that love is inherent. It was important that my daughters knew their mother was going through something that would test me to my core. Having little choice but candor since the post-surgery scars were visible and I was essentially bedridden, I avoided “baby talk” and spoke to them logically.
When I was going through chemo, I explained that losing my hair was from the medicine. I reassured them that once I finished the medicine, the hair would grow back. I remember their faces the first time they saw me in the shower with my bald head. The shock took hours to wear off. That said, the next time they saw my bald head, they did not look as surprised, confused, or as disappointed as they had. Children are quicker to adapt and accept normalcy for their new environment than adults would imagine. Today, my children view and treat me as they did since before I was diagnosed, yet they remain aware and sensitive to the situation. I am unsure if they will remember the way they felt when they saw me without breasts, but I know they continue to behave as mature and kind individuals. They made me feel more comfortable about my appearance than I ever thought possible.
In the countless lessons I have learned throughout this harrowing yet enlightening experience, the one that resonates most is a child’s capacity to be rational. I was able to explain that I found a lump in my breast and it needed to be removed. We had candid conversations about my chemo treatment, my itchy wig, and my hot flashes. I told them I would sleep at the hospital for a little while and then come home. I would let them know in advance when I had chemo treatments. They understood it all.
Many friends said that children would not understand cancer. However, cancer is omnipresent and affects so many people — not just the fighters, but also their loved ones who are helping them fight. In fact, with more than half a million Americans expected to die of cancer this year alone — that’s more than 1,500 people every day — I also was unsure how to hide the second-leading cause of death from my children, even if I tried. Caring, honest, and incredibly brave, my children handled this journey in a way that continues to fill me with pride.
Not surprisingly, cancer has impacted many celebrities. Regardless of how you feel about Angelina Jolie, she has started the conversation among so many of us, reminding women around the world that our breasts do not define who we are as people. While writing my first book, Hair to the Queen!, I wanted my daughters to know that the Mommy they loved and admired with hair was the same loving and passionate person with a wig. Today, two years later, my relationship with my daughters and husband is stronger than ever, and I realize that my femininity and strength came from within — it always had.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamara B. Rodriguez is the author of Hair to the Queen!, her first children’s book. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, Ms. Rodriguez wanted to talk about the disease with her two young daughters, but struggled to find the right words. She wrote Hair to the Queen! to help families start the conversation in a light-hearted and fearless way. Recently, Ms. Rodriguez was invited to debut her book at the Miami Book Fair International from November 18-20, 2016, an annual weeklong literary festival hosted by Miami Dade College. Hair to the Queen! is available online at Amazon.com and BooksandBooks.com, as well as at Books & Books locations in Miami Beach and in Coral Gables, FL. To learn more about book-signing events, kicking off with one at Books & Books in Coral Gables on January 14, 2017, please visit hairtothequeenbook.com and follow Hair to the Queen! on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Net proceeds will go to The Alfred Beliard Foundation, which focuses on cancer education, early prevention, and treatment for Haitians living in Haiti.