FROM THE VAULT: A System Worked and a System Failed. How Illness Impacts our Dear Friends…and Us.

Editor’s Note 1/30/12: Dear all…I was so pleased this weekend to read a “Caring Bridge” entry re: my friend Sammye.  To even begin to share the challenges she’s experienced since this post was written 1.5 years ago would be impossible.  If you’re interested, you can check on her entries here.  But most importantly, I read this paragraph early this morning:

“HIP HIP (left hip, not right one) HOORAY!  PET scan taken at the end of last week shows no malignancies!  Dr. Hollen is as happy as he can be and of course I was relieved, happy, grateful, prayerful, thankful, and every other positive emotion one can think of!  All is well…inside and out!  My visits with Dr. Hollen will continue every three months with scans every six months.  The hip (right one) is still no fun but I’m getting around and focusing on all the things I can do, rather than the things that are still tough.  I’ve lost weight and as more comes off (sounds easy, huh?) I am sure that the hip will show even more appreciation! “

This post was well-read 18 months ago, so I’m sharing it again “from the vault” to remind us that personal things…even haircuts…have histories much bigger than just a word. Love, RDK


Editor’s Note:  We have two “impact of illness” perspectives to share with you this morning.

♥  One comes from Sammye Cravens, CFO-COO of Public Strategies, Inc. in Oklahoma City.  On June 4, 2009, she was diagnosed with Malignant Lymphoma, Diffuse Large B-Cell Type.  She used a wonderful tool called to communicate with her friends, family and supporters. What a day of celebration there was when her body said “yes” to the treatment and she got through every step of the process.  She has opened her journal, now, to the public and recently wrote an essay on the “chronology of her hair” to share with the community.

As we know, hair can be a fairly precarious concept when getting through cancer treatment. I hope you are endeared by Sammye’s history of hair.  I know I was.

♥  The second came in my mailbox at home, and now I’m sharing it with you.  Holly Foote grew up in Oklahoma and attended my church until she graduated from high school.  She earned her Masters in Nutrition at Columbia University and recently finished medical school at Touro College; she’s now wearing a white coat.  Her best friend Amy, also one of our former “church kids,” contracted Type I diabetes when she was only nine.  She died in May of 2009 and the events surrounding that tragedy were medically incoherent.

You can read about the “broken system” that misdiagnosed and mistreated Amy in Holly’s blog entry, “Failing Heart.” The card I received explains a bit about her grief experience and was a way to touch back those who had tried to reach out to her during her difficult time.

I thank both Sammye and Holly for sharing their funny and/or vulnerable real lives with their friends, and for giving permission to post their thoughts here at the RDC.

Sincerely, Red Dirt Kelly

~~~ ~~~ ~~~


by Sammye Cravens

Today I’m getting a hair “cut.”  I guess this is my fourth trim since I unveiled that massive amount of post-chemo hair back in April. This brings me to think about my YEARS of hair issues.

Oh, the cowlicks...

As far back as I can remember, I have had hair issues.

  • I remember Papa, my fraternal grandfather, taking me to the barber shop as a little girl. He passed away when I was quite young so these memories are from when I was about 4 or 5 years old. His friend, the barber, would use the best buzzer he had and I would come home, with what little hair I started with, skinned up the back looking like a cute little boy. And the fun continued……

    Papa & me. More of a bowl cut than the skinned look he usually got me!
  • Around age 7, my sister (15) was babysitting me one night. She decided it would be fun to cut my hair. My hair…..not my ear lobe! She took a big slice of my hair with the kitchen scissors and sure enough, the earlobe dangled. It truly looked like a mass murder had occurred. I squealed and squealed; she yelled and yelled, we both used every towel we could find to wipe up the blood. I had no idea that the earlobe was such a pipeline. Mom and Dad were not happy….but remember, it wasn’t even their earlobes that had to dangle for months before re​-​attaching!!
  • Perhaps the longest my hair has ever been, back in a headband!

    At a little older age, maybe 10, my mom took me to the beauty shop with her. The poor stylist cut and cut and cut. Then, when she still couldn’t do anything with it, she greased it down the best she could and sent me out the door. Of course, at this point, I KNEW that I looked like a little boy. It was about 1 ½ inches all over my head and greased down with Dippity-Do. Even my mother to this day says, “Oh, you can’t believe how you looked”. Yes mom, I believe it!!!

  • At about age 12, I had somewhat more tolerable hair….or so I thought. It was still short but it felt more feminine for some reason. Maybe it was all the perms. Perhaps it was because I was beginning to feel some sort of female hormones approaching. I was with my mom at the mall looking at shoes and she was visiting with some lady from Booneville. I never have liked Booneville. My sixth grade teacher was from there and she was mean too. Of course, I had one of those moms that no matter where we went, she knew people. Not just someone, but lots of people. That always prolonged the trips because we had to stop, visit and catch up on all the mutual friends. So this one particular day we were looking for Easter shoes at Reagan’s at Central Mall in Fort Smith. I tried on some fancy little white Easter shoes. Mom and Ms. Booneville were chatting away and finally I interrupted and said, “Mom, how do you like these?” Well, Ms. Booneville (still don’t like her to this day, I might add) quickly spoke up and said, “SONNY, those are cute shoes but a little too feminine for you!!”  S​O​N​N​Y​?​?​?  PL​E​A​S​E​!  I didn’t even ask her what she thought anyway.
  • For formal occasions, I wore my hair ROLLED.

    At age 15, I rode the bus to Little Rock to visit my sister. After 15 full years of hair issues, she decided she could find someone in the “BIG CITY” to deal with my lovely hair. She found a salon and took me in for a makeover. By this time, my hair had been permed and permed and permed to the point of eternal frizziness. The stylish thing (in California and New York) was to cut hair really short. This worked very well on Liza Minnelli and on other supermodels and superstars…but perhaps Arkansas was not yet living in that style.  Anyway, we proceeded to un-perm and to cut and cut and cut my hair to a very stylish (in California and New York anyway) little crop. It was really short. Liza Minnelli short. Well, much to my surprise, I wasn’t Liza and never would be. And this wasn’t California or New York and likely never would be the style-mecca. So, off I head to Dillard’s to the lingerie section. I loved lingerie and thought at the ripe old age of 15 that it would be fun to get some new      u​n​d​e​r​g​a​r​m​e​n​t​s​; ​p​a​r​t​i​c​u​l​a​r​l​y bras. Well, I’m feeling pretty spruced up with my new stylish haircut after being convinced by my older sister and the hair stylist that it looked terrific. I take a handful of stylish, brightly​-​colored bras in my hand and head back to the dressing rooms only to be stopped by the Dillard’s dressing room Gestapo. She quickly announces that I am not welcome in this dressing room. “The boy’s dressing room is on the other side of the store.” Ok, so I was FLAT as a pancake at 15. Guess I should disclose that feature too, huh? But I still didn’t get why she thought a little boy would want to try on bras anyway? Oh well, that was it…..I was immediately thrown into hair depression. I rode the bus back from Little Rock to Fort Smith and must have cried all the way! But, I bounced back, of course!

  • At age 16, I went back to the perm look. It was more of a Caucasian​-​Afro and I must admit was pretty horrid. No more words to describe this point in my life.
  • I’ll fast forward to moving to Oklahoma City at age 22. I was convinced that using product and highlighting would provide great amounts of texture to my hair. Sure e​n​o​u​g​h​…​.​g​r​e​a​t amounts of costs too! So, being fairly capable with a cell-phone calculator I am blown away by my spending on my hair over the last 29 years. By my c​a​l​c​u​l​a​t​i​o​n​s​, it exceeds $32,000 of spending (28 years, every 5 weeks, about $110 each time plus 1 year of no spending). And to think that during that time my sister has said to me numerous times, “I sure wish I lived somewhere that the wind blows constantly like you do so my hair could look like $#!% all the time too!” Really? $32,000??? Man, I could have a great Harley or a boat or even a retirement fund!
  • After calculating how much money (without even considering present values) I thought I’d calculate time. About an hour a day to work with my lovely locks from age 15 to age 50 (excluding the post chemo and “style” now) represents 36 years and that equates to over 13,000 hours ON MY HAIR. Let’s see….that many hours fishing could yield a lot of fish out on the lake. It could also represent over 6 years of vacation time from my job. Wow! This all leads me to believe I have spent too much time and money on my hair.
  • Lillie cut my hair!!! March 27, 2010. Five months of growing!

    So we move forward. I now sport the wash and wear style as provided by my favorite hair stylist of all time (with Michael Suenram at a close second), Lillie Norvell Cravens. So, today, I’ll get it trimmed and will love my new hair style which includes no perming, no h​i​g​h​l​i​g​h​t​i​n​g​, no Caucasian Afro, very little time and best of all no payment!

Have a great weekend e​v​e​r​y​o​n​e​…​a​n​d enjoy each and every moment not doing your hair.

I’m feeling good, regaining s​t​r​e​n​g​t​h​ a​n​d looking forward to mid-October for a PET scan and more maintenance chemo. Please SAVE THE DATE of October 10th for Light The Night for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We’ll be walking at 5 PM and would love to have you join us. More info to follow…and cool t-shirts…and fun folks!

Special love and prayers to my friends and family fighting this battle with cancer.  And love to thanks to all of you for helping us fight the fight with strength and courage.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Amen.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~


We’re still here Holly, just throwing back little thoughts for you to take in case you need to go back in your hole for a while.  I’m the one eating a slice of watermelon.  I’ll share mine with you when you’re ready.

Love, One Girl Sitting In A Lawn Chair For You

P.S.  And Holly, if my chair collapses or folds up on me just go with it.  Sometimes that happens.



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