By Dani Taylor
My first grey hair. Peeking through at the crown of my head, shining from the cold, bright lighting of the hospital washroom. I didn’t believe it at first; I pushed my masked face closer to the metal mirror. I started to feel the coarseness of it with my fingertips. I smile at this new piece of evidence that I’m still standing.
I’ll be 31 in a few weeks. It was more than seven years ago now when I learned I had colorectal cancer, when I watched my young life and all its expectations collapse around me. When even after the surgeries, the long days receiving chemotherapy, and the cold radiation table were over, every blood test, every scan, every scope, every symptom threatened to drag me back. Cancer took many things away, but this first grey hair? It didn’t get to have that.
I continued to stare into the mirror. The pale blue surgical mask has left a reddish crease across my cheeks. My pale arms are in stark contrast to my fresh black scrubs. My eyelashes disappear behind my glasses; I don’t wear mascara on days I think I might cry at work.
“It is a privilege to grow old,” I say to my reflection.
I walk down the hospital hallway to the room where I’ll witness my first medically assisted death through my plastic face-shield. I cry at work.
Dani Taylor is a proud YACCtivist and social worker in palliative care at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.