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Rāmah’s Story: I have cancer. Cancer doesn’t have me.

By • March 15 2015

“Courage. Resilience. Strength. Beauty. Confidence.”

This girl.

This woman.

This inspiring, humble, wise woman. A surprising hero and teacher. A young sage with so much to show us–older and younger alike–even though her journey on this earth has barely begun…

Rāmah Walker warmly welcomes me into her parents’ sitting room to discuss her current ordeal. I ask questions; she considers them thoughtfully, and graciously she opens her heart to me.

Courage. Resilience. Strength. Beauty. Confidence.

In Rāmah’s case, these attributes aren’t simply qualities you see: This is truly who Rāmah is. With every word and gesture, she oozes these things; she brings them to life.

It’s impossible not to notice Rāmah’s smooth, hairless head. Has she always been bald? No. This is a recent development. I haven’t met many women who sport baldness with such grace and class. Rāmah is gorgeous, no doubt. But her story reveals that it’s not just what’s on the outside that radiates her indomitable beauty.

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And what’s Rāmah’s story? She has cancer, stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma. You may not know a lot about this disease, but you don’t have to. When I say “stage 4 cancer,” you instantly understand that Rāmah is facing months of pain, hardship, treatment, and some very scary things. The “Big C” is a non-discriminating thief of joy, normalcy, resources, peace, and time.

But you might get a different perspective if you talk to Rāmah…

“I don’t really have to worry about anything because my peeps are doing the worrying for me!”

This is how Rāmah sums up her experience thus far: “I’m just grateful.” She says she’s particularly grateful for two things: For the loved ones who have supported her, and for how good she’s been feeling.

I can’t help but smile as Rāmah speaks fondly about her family and friends and the ways they have rallied around her. She laughs as she tells me, “I don’t really have to worry about anything because my peeps are doing the worrying for me!” Her mom coaxes her to eat when she’s not hungry; her boyfriend posts photos of the two of them, boasting about his stunning date; her dad lovingly shaves her patchy hair so her lovely head is even and shiny; and faithful friends visit when she’s too tired to leave the house.

“Yeah, it was hard when it started falling out, and I really bawled. But you just have to accept it.”

Rāmah has experienced the typical cycle of good and bad days, and after treatments she’s pretty wiped out. She admits, “You can only watch so much TV.” Now that she’s caught up on Downton Abbey, she spends those down days learning French and practicing her piano. She’s also reading a book about being a stewardess (her current profession) to “stay on her game,” as she puts it.

Rāmah chooses not to focus on the beating her body is taking. When she feels up to it, she takes walks, relishing the fresh air. She ventures out to movies, plays, restaurants, and the mall–“normal places”–ignoring the curious stares and insensitive comments that a young bald woman attracts.

About losing her hair, Rāmah admits, “Yeah, it was hard when it started falling out, and I really bawled. But you just have to accept it. I cut it short first to see how long it would last, and that was a big change already. When it got really thin and patchy, my mom took me into the bathroom to show me. My whole family was there, so we decided right then to just shave it all off. It was incredible to have my entire family supporting me at that time.”
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