I Did My Hair In Case Matt Damon Showed Up to My Lumpectomy

I did my hair in case Matt Damon showed up to my lumpectomy. I did. I woke up and curled each strand, smoothed it out and pinned it back. I did my eyes too- but only eye shadow, not liner. I didn’t know if they would need to put me under anesthesia and if Matt Damon really did show up I didn’t want to look like the Crow, with black streaks running down my face. I looked pretty, I thought, pretty enough for surgery and possibly Matt Damon.

I invite Matt to everything. He’s pro-union and a humanitarian, and basically, my most-favorite-actor-ever. But that’s another blog post, perhaps another blog entirely. I could call it “Things I Invite Matt Damon To.” (Parties, rallies, protests, the births of my children…)

Anyhow, my point is, I prepared for my lumpectomy like anything else. I sat and tried to preempt every possible scenario. I tried to anticipate every feeling both in me and around me. I tried to control the experience.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I made a gigantic batch of meatballs and put them in my freezer. The logic was, if something happened to me, my husband and two young children would have dinner for weeks. This way they could go a while before noticing I was gone. I imagined them looking for the little foil packets one night down the line and suddenly realizing, wait, Mom is dead.

It’s morbid. I know.

I tried to keep the people around me from worrying. I made jokes… awful jokes. People don’t laugh at cancer jokes. It’s like they have no sense of tumor. (Last one, I promise.) I tried to show how very much “ok” with all this I am, how very much on top of it I can be.

Then, yesterday morning, an hour before my procedure, after dropping the kids off at school, it dawned on me that I have cancer. I pulled the car over and thought about it for a minute. All the prepping and downplaying in the world wouldn’t take away the reality as I sat with it alone. For the first time in a month, it occurred to me that maybe it was serious.

Cancer. Yikes. They should really call it something else. Cancer needs a new PR team.

A few months ago, a friend asked me if I was afraid to fly. I was a flight attendant for several years and this question comes up often. I think there is an assumption that when you know more, you have more to fear. As I thought about the question, I had this moment of clarity when I realized that I am actually not afraid of anything. No. I am not afraid to fly. I am not afraid of heights. I am not afraid of life.

This admission, of a life unafraid, made me feel powerful and peaceful. What is there to fear? Will I get sick? Maybe, but if I do, I will be ok. Will I die? Hopefully not, but, hey, there are a ton of meatballs in my freezer, just in case.

Matt Damon did not show up to my lumpectomy, but my hair looked fabulous and had he arrived, he likely would’ve noted my amazing conditioner.  I would’ve told him not to worry, like I have everyone else. I would have made an inappropriate joke, and knowing Matt (which I don’t), he would have laughed uncomfortably. Most of all, I would hope he’d notice me there, in that hospital bed, not able to control what’s next but not afraid to live.

But mostly the conditioner.


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Sara Dorner is a labor representative and community activist living and working in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Her two young children keep her busy and make life fun!

49 thoughts on “I Did My Hair In Case Matt Damon Showed Up to My Lumpectomy”

  1. Sara! You write like I like to read. Love and peace to you my dear. Thanks for the humor and thanks for the real. And your Matt Damon is my Justin Timberlake, I soooo get you. Keep it comin’, sista!

  2. Amazing piece of writing.

    Courage and humour = indefatiguability. Nice one.

    And good on you with the conditioner (my wife’s conditioners smell so good I want to put them on toast for breakfast)

  3. This is a great post, and congrats on the feature! Who cares if others are uncomfortable, make every joke you want to! May you get the best results you possibly can on your lumpectomy! And may Matt Damon show up after your next invitation!
    PS what conditioner do you use?

  4. When I was having going to appointments or having chemo, my daughter and I would dress to win the ‘best dressed chemo patients’ competition. No one else knew it was a competition – we always won hands down! I think Matt Damon would have thought that too. It’s the little things that make it okay. (And winning – obviously!). Much love x

  5. I fell in love with you, though my name is Vicky and not Matt!
    We have so much in common, first of all irony and love for life, in all its shapes and colors.
    I’m Italian, I’m 53, mother in 1984, widow since 2005, alive every day though being on my “throne” – my wheelchair – since 1995 because of a bad stroke (do good strokes exist?).
    Life is great. I fall in love with it all the time. Don’t be jelous, there’s enough for the two of us and more… <3
    Bye Sara, let's keep in touch and… sorry for my so rough english!
    A warm hug to you and your family and a great f*** off to your cancer!
    Ciao from Milano, Italy.

  6. This is awesome, and so are you! Not often do you come across people that can joke about it. Fearless optimism. I love it. I work for a breast surgical oncologist and see all different reactions to a cancer diagnosis. But you, you are great. And with a lumpectomy I am sure you will survive many many years to come and be able to make a lot of meatballs! God bless you.

  7. I am very sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Your comment about the meatballs in the freezer did make me sad, but I did laugh at your bad cancer joke. You sound like a very strong person and I wish you all the best in your fight!

  8. I was in a really pissy mood. Then I read this and thank God I’m alone, bc you’re terribly unfunny jokes were a little funny. I love your positivity under such heavy circumstances. Thanks for the humor and the honesty.

  9. Very tumorous! Love it! You are a brave and inspirational woman. Keep those positive vibes flowing through the world! Thank you for this piece, I wish you a speedy road to recovery 🙂 <3

  10. This was so lovely to read even though it was of something actually quite sad. I think you’re a strong and thoughtful person. Im not very good at commenting. Xo

  11. Humor is the best! Great piece! When I found out I had breast cancer almost 14 years ago, a very good friend of mine left work to come see me as I was alone when I got the call I had the dreaded “C”. When I opened the door, she handed me a small potted plant and said, “Cause they don’t make cards that say F**k you got cancer!” They do today! Good luck with everything…you can beat this! I wrote a book for teen girls so they could understand breast cancer as well as offer them advice on lifestyle changes that may help them later on in life.

  12. Have you thought about offering to make meatballs for Matt? (Maybe that’s the name for the new blog: Meatballs for Matt.) The more optimistic you can be, the better. The more you accept your reality and help others come to terms with it, the better. Sounds like you’ve got a great focus. All best to you and your family. Enjoy each other.

  13. This made me very emotional, Sara. Recently, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and his emotional reaction has not been the best. I’m so glad and inspired to see someone face it so undauntedly. Love and power to you!

  14. Hi Sara,
    I think you are a very strong and thoughtful person. Very good writing with every ingredient present to make an excellent dish.
    Wishing you all that you need to beat the damn cancer xx.

  15. You are so brave and so strong. Cancer has been a pretty common occurrence in my family. Even my own mother is a cancer survivor. It can be overcome, if not too late. But it will not be an easy journey. In fact, it’s going to be really painful; both physically and mentally. Mom stayed strong for her kids, and you should too for yours. I hope that everything would be okay for you and your family, and that you would be the one warming up those meatballs for dinner. God bless. xx

  16. I love an inappropriate joke. Especially when that joke comes from a place of fiery bravery. I laughed at all you jokes so much I clicked ‘subscribe’! Fantastic post!

  17. A rare perspective to life threatening illness from an exceptional and cheerful strong-willed women. I wish you speedy recovery- lady. You’re fearless but your family needs you. Those meatballs won’t be nearly enough.

  18. I have to admit I laughed. I have to admit I am only here because of care and experience.

    Thank you for the conditioner joke. It takes Frankenstein proportions to confront ones’ looks in and before illness. I am happy you are here with us!

    Dirty Water

    We’ve been drinking grainy water 
from the aquifer,
    the earth silt deeper than
 we’d thought it would be.

    My skin is clear, and
 I don’t fart or have bad breath
    I am prone to.

My mom’s trying not to talk.
    If she could talk her pain away, she would.

    And, I am trying to find out from her
, things
    that I want to know about myself.
    Tell me tell me tell me 
    because it hurts.
    Why did you do that, to me?
    She wouldn’t give an inch,
    having me weave songs of
    neuroses I was born to solve.
    Tell me what you want?
    Gimme the palm or insult.
Clarify the message or do it again
    to the cacophony of confrontation.
    At this point,
    everything that’s wrong is between
    you and me.

    Its rained. The dirt is in the waterway again.
    I offered her a song.
    She listened, not saying a thing.
    She didn’t give an inch,
    instead showing me a goofy smile
    at the kitchen table.

    It was a provocation.
    I should have asked her why it hurts,
    when it hurts, how it hurts, and the nature
    of it in the way none of us would ever
    know enough to talk to her.
    This silence is marked by the rain.
    We’re not showering tonight anyway.

  19. I say you take on the PR role for cancer, and infuse it with as much humor as you seem well-positioned to do. Heck, if we can’t laugh at life’s most challenging times, we are all seriously doomed. I think Matt would agree. Wishing you many years of health, joy with the family and dishing up those meatballs yourself 😉 Great writing, btw!

  20. We had cancer in the family last year and morbid jokes were the only way to get through. The jokes made us still feel like our normal selves fighting back against fear. I hope it all goes well for you and that Matt Damon gets his lazy butt in gear and comes by to say hi.

  21. I love that by sharing your story you are reminding us all to live life unafraid. Sending positive vibes and love your way, girl! Thanks for sharing your story with us.

  22. I love it! As a fellow cancer survivor it was my weapon as well to use sarcasm and sass and silliness to combat the dread that would have sunk in otherwise. It made people uncomfortable often because its hard for them to get, but I know that exact feeling and you nailed it. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  23. I love this post! Your style of writing is engaging and funny. I will remember your Matt Damon invitations and have to start inviting John Cusack to all of my ‘events.’ Thanks for sharing and please update how everything went.

  24. If Matt showed up unexpectedly you could have referred everything as…

    “That awkward moment my husband met Matt Damon”

  25. Absolutely loved this! Your writing and humour are great. If you don’t ask you don’t get eh? Keep asking Matt and I’m sure he will turn up one day. Cancer does need a better PR team – that made me laugh 🙂 what would you call it instead?

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