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When former Congresswoman, attorney, and now co-owner of KKMP Radio Rosemond Santos-Sword shaved her head at the 2012 Marianas March Against Cancer, I was shocked.  I always knew Rose was gutsy, strong, opinionated and self-assured, but woah.  Woah!  Shaving her head, even for a good cause, especially for a woman is big deal stuff.  I was touched by her selflessness, but after hearing stories of some of the encounters she had in public afterward, I was moved to write about it.  I want to thank Rose for agreeing to be a guest on my blog and for her bravery.  Below are Rose’s very own unedited accounts of her courageous donation.

The Interview:

You had your head shaved as part of the Marianas March Against Cancer (MMAC) awareness campaign.  Every action we take comes from someplace deep within, what was it that prompted you to volunteer to donate your hair?  In 2001, during my first year of law school, I came across a magazine article regarding LOCKS OF LOVE.  I was so touched by the story of the kids’ needing hair donations to make wigs for those who have lost their hair to cancer treatment.  I decided to grow my hair from that moment on.  My hair length was below my neck at that time.  October 18, 2007 was the first time I donated.  

Then I grew my hair again to donate to WIGS FOR KIDS.  This year, I did just that.  Keep in mind though that I do not enjoy long hair.  It is heavy, gave me headaches, and expensive to maintain!  I’ve had long hair in high school and college but that was only largely due to my father’s expectation of his girls having long beautiful hair as expected of island girls. 

In a nutshell, I have a soft spot for children.  I was a child myself and I can tell you the troubles I dealt with when it came to my self esteem and how people thought I should look.  When I read the magazine re LOCKS OF LOVE, I connected with the struggles those cancer kids had to deal with having to walk around the community bald.  

I wanted to be completely give for once in my life and not live up to the expectations of how island women should look like with long beautiful dark hair (my Dad passed away in 2005 so I think he’s cool with it now).  I’ve donated my hair in the past but never went bald.  I’ve finally mustered up enough courage to take it to the next level.  I’m completely happy I took that route.

As a woman, we all struggle with the image of beauty, whether it is spurred on by media or our upbringing.  Were you in the least bit nervous about what your appearance would be like afterwards and whether or not you would regret it?  OF COURSE, OF COURSE AND OF COURSE!!!  I wasn’t sure how I would look.  I was very nervous.  But, I gave in to love and left all my fears in the hands of the Lord.  As a result, I have the perfect shaped head to go bald and wear it well – at least that’s what I’ve been told.

Many people respect what you have done, including myself.  It was not merely courageous, but extremely life giving.  However, you also experienced quite a bit of negative attention.  Although it hurt you on a personal level, what really bothered you about the insensitive remarks and staring?  How such prejudices hurt children causing them making it even more difficult to upkeep their self esteem and spirit during cancer treatment or genetically predisposed to the not have hair, and other medical/genetic conditions causing children to look “different”.  We always advocate to help the most vulnerable, that is, the very young and the elders.  However, we do not live up to that expectation or teaching, fully.  I find that bothersome and a bit cowardice when it comes specifically to the young who have no hair for whatever reason, children who look different because they are autistic or have down syndrome.  

Has being bald instilled any lessons about what others who may have to deal with disfiguration, disability or any other type of physical impairment may be going through?  Most definitely!  But I know for certain it does not compare to those who are.  Because I’ve never been physically disfigured, disabled, or physically impaired as a result of a car accident or an illness, for example, I can only imagine their feeling demoralized, dehumanized, chastised, and excommunication.  

The lesson…by loving unconditionally, acceptance and respect comes easy.  Walk with a smile on your lips and a prayer in your heart.  The fear of God or karma helps BIG TIME!

We sometimes think to ourselves, “If only you knew what I was going through” or “If only you could feel what I’m feeling.”  If you could share a message with the community about what it is like to be “different”, what would it be?  What if that bald child is YOURSELF, your Mom, your Dad, your sister, your brother, your son or daughter.  Can you imagine being the receiving end of those negative comments and stares each and every time you step out to go shopping with Mom and Dad or enter the community because you have a doctor’s appointment and in the waiting room people just stare at you?  Imagine if that bald child or disfigured adult is Jesus.  Would we say those negative comments to Him or stare at Him? 

PEOPLE YOU LOVE being prejudiced because they have down syndrome; are autistic and anti social and may look or behave “abnormal” as a result; don’t have a leg or have visual impairment due to a severe case of diabetes, or walk with a guide stick due to blindness.

I would hope that parents take time to teach their young children that in life they may come across people, young or old alike, who may look different.  Our kids should learn that being different is okay and some people do not have a choice on their physical appearance.  Most importantly, it should not matter how we look.  What matters is that we all need love especially the young victims of cancer.

Would you do it all over again if you had a choice?  MOST DEFINITELY!  AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN!  And it certainly is a choice. What if I didn’t have a choice?  I would hope people would give me the love and support to live a normal life if and when I ever look different for what ever reason.

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since your hair donation?  The personal joy knowing that there is a child some where in the world wearing a wig made out of my hair walking with a smile and saying I’M ALRIGHT! 

Let’s get rid of this disease we call prejudice.  I pray our people live up to our island way of life and make the CNMI truly a beautiful place to live for each and every one of us.

There is one more benefit to going bald, but it’s so good, I think I’ll keep it to myself :)  Thanks for the interview Rose!