Bald, Beautiful and Barbie?


Do you see this picture?  I can’t stand looking at it.  It was taken on the way to Chop for the emergency shunt surgery. Two weeks before my baby became an angel. Why you may ask? Because my little girl is bald?  Of course not she is beautiful with or without hair and she knew it.  I hate it because I can see the pain, the sickness in those beautiful blue eyes.  Even though she was so sick she gave me a thumbs up because her parent asked her to. To show that she believed she was going to get better. No matter what, she listened to her parents. I was going to write a blog about coping but Carolynn wrote a post about the bald Barbie and I thought I would give you my opinion. I’ll write the coping one tomorrow.

When Make a Wish came out to talk to us about Gabby’s wish they said we can stay at Give Kids the World Village. Gabby didn’t want to stay there, Gabby stopped going in the playroom at Chop the third day we were at CHOP. Not because she saw these children as ugly, not because she was scared she would soon look that way. She didn’t want to go to the village because she didn’t want to be different, she knew she couldn’t play and color like the other kids anymore and that made her sad. She wanted to blend in. I’ve heard amazing things about the village, but my daughter just didn’t want to be there.

We told Gabby when radiation started she would loose hair, It was the Yuckies coming out and it would grow back. She was beautiful . She understood. I remember the exact day and time when Gabby realized she was losing hair. We were all sitting on the couch looking at her baby albums. She looked at Carolynn and said I look like a baby.

You see she never felt she was ugly, she thought she looked like a baby. She also was wearing diapers. She was potty trained since three and two years later she was back in diapers, she used to love making crafts and coloring. No longer…She realized she could not color in the lines or do what she used to do. It had nothing to do with beauty. It had to do with losing control. She always wanted to be like her big sisters and now she was getting further away from that goal not closer.

I’m Bald, Surprise!  Would I like to have hair? Sure. Do I lay up at night and wish for it? No. I know hair doesn’t define who I am and it didn’t define Gabby.  Gabby defined Gabby. Her attitude, her values. Hair was just a thing.

Society blames violence on video games, television, they blame obesity of the fast food industry and sugary snacks.  So what does society do? Boycott, scream and yell that big corporations are marketing to children all these horrible things and we are helpless to stop them.

Seriously? Well guess what, my daughters don’t play violent video games, watch no more than an hour of TV a day on weekdays, never drink caffeinated soda and we limit the candy and dessert intake. McDonalds is considered an occasional treat.  Our children for the most part aren’t going to buy these things for themselves we buy these products for them and complain at the impact they have on our kids.  I play XBOX, I stood in line one night at 1:00am for a release of Modern Warfare 3.  A violent ,bloody, obscenity laced game. I never play it until the girls are asleep. They know two to three curses heard on the bus, ranging from hell, Sh@t, and D&*k.  They didn’t learn it from the game. I bring this up because in front of me in line was a woman standing in the November freezing night with her 10 year old son waiting for this game. The same mother who probably speaks at the PTA about how horrible kids are becoming in todays age.

I was raised by two amazing woman, my single mother who waited tables while going to college with three children she had to look after. And my Grandmother, an old school no nonsense Ukranian woman.  They taught me my values, my beliefs.

I’m a geek I collect Marvel action figures. As a boy it was Star Wars and GI Joes. I never wanted a bald chubby Gi Joe (as I look today) I wanted a scarred faced bad ass who was ready to take down cobra commander.  Toys are to imagine your someone else. To pretend your saving the world or being rescued by prince charming.  I don’t rely on toys to teach my children they are beautiful.

I have asked my daughters for the last 9 years three questions every morning and every night. Who is the most beautiful girl in the world? (response is I am) who is the smartest girl in the world (response is I am), and finally who can be anything they want when they grow up ( response I can).  Hair, scars, feeding tubes, isn’t what defines our children. What we teach them does.

If we went to Disney and Gabby saw nothing but bald princesses she wouldn’t like it because that’s not the fairytale.  News flash “Cinderella has hair and our kids all know that) How do we address she’s bald now? Say Cinderella has cancer? Fairy tales don’t get sick, that what draws our children toward movies with talking squirrels and Captain Jack Sparrow.

I do believe these toys are great in the hospital when you want to demonstrate what a port is, what a shunt is.  And yes it’s not just for cancer, Alopecia needs to be addressed to.  But it’s our job to teach our kids what beauty and being handsome mean. Mattel and Hasbro can’t teach this to our children.  Its no different than teaching our kids how bad smoking is. We don’t rely on Marlboro or Newport to do that do we?

Please understand this is just my opinion and I expect pushback.  Geeky me can customize action figures, if you want a bald Barbie all you have to do is go on Youtube and you’ll see how to customize one yourself.  Save the money and donate it to Gabby s foundation or another worthy foundation. Don’t rely on Mattel to pass the message on to your kids and the money to these organizations.  Also imagine how amazing your daughter or son will feel when you tell them they have a one of a kind doll or figure. One that dad or mom made for them, one that is special just like them.

I was talking to a friend today as I was watching birds. I made the statement all birds are beautiful no matter if they are plain or colorful. They are beautiful, their songs are unique, their feathers and markings are never exact. They are individuals, from how they eat to how they protect their territory. Just like your children. Just don’t let them try to fly (Katie broke her arm that way) and keep them away from the bird food.

Yesterday I was painting a bird house with Kate. She wanted to quit because she didn’t think it would turn out as she said “ugly as it was”  I looked at her and said: Baby it’s beautiful because it’s one of the kind.  Hair isn’t ugly and neither is lack of hair. Your child is beautiful because they are yours, because they are themselves. Teach that to them, don’t look at the mean kids that say things to blame, or the lack of related toys.  I looked at Kate and said” Darling just remember to say “no worries” Because there are worse things in life than painting outside of the lines.

 Believe in yourself

Believe in your Child

Believe in Gabby


30 thoughts on “Bald, Beautiful and Barbie?

  1. I see both sides of the issue and what you are saying. However, this is how this mother is advocating and helping others going through cancer and alopecia so more power to her. A child with alopecia or a child whose parent has cancer may find comfort in a toy others may not. But it’s one parents way of coping that’s all

  2. Beautifully written, as always. Maybe you should write a book,I’m 100% positive
    It would become a best seller one day! The way you explain your emotions and the
    way you help your reader to capture your story is truly amazing. You have a gift and
    It’s such a shame that this horrific tragedy that became your life is what brings it out.
    God Bless you and your family John. *Believe* 😉

  3. I agree with your comments about the bald barbie. Matel will do anything to make a buck. I also wanted to say how terribly sorry I am for your loss. There are no words that can convey the deep sadness in my heart I feel for you and your family,Please know your family is in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. This is such a beautiful and moving tribute to your daughter! I agree – hair is just an other accessory. Your Gabby was very fortunate to have such a loving and supportive family. I love the 3 bedtime questions!

  5. John, this is a beautifully written piece. I read all your stuff and very rarely comment. I don’t know how you feel, I can only imagine. I saw the bald barbie on the news the other night, and commented to my husband, “My mom would love that, I would buy it for her and just put it in the hopechest where I have alot of her things” (She died three years ago, -lung cancer- and yes, I still buy her little gifts when I feel like it, and just put them away in the hope chest, I also have her first original barbie). I also commented to my husband “What a nice thing for little girls who are suffering with cancer, bald is beautiful” But to read this coming from you, makes so much more sense to me and I didn’t quite look at it this way until you opened my eyes. You’re so right. I don’t know what the answer is, and maybe some kids would get alot out of it, and some not so much, but I have to thank you for telling the other side of the story is such a beautiful, and eloquent way. I think of you guys often and it makes my heart smile every time I see that you and your girls are having a good day. Take Care (PS I’m glad you attach letters to balloons. I don’t know if you got that idea from us, I had posted it on your site when Gabby passed away, we do it for my mom often, and it works for us, glad to see others are doing it to.) I Believe they can read them, I believe they are watching, I believe they are here. Believe.

  6. I do agree with you for the most part. Dolls are for make believe play. And only people who have a person they know sick will buy this bald barbie… I believe that you buy dolls and stuffed animals to make someone happy, seeing a bald barbie will make you think of a sick doll. But these companies who sell these type of toys are gonna do what ever they want regardless of what we think. I only have one child and she is 13, I could never imagine her sick, or even gone. My best friend lost her battle to cancer in 2010 she fought for 5 long agonizing years her daughter Kayla is my daughter’s best friend, Kayla lost her father to cancer at 6 yrs. and her mother at 12 yrs., but I still can’t imagine losing a child. You and your family have shared your feelings and your love for your family. Gabby shouldn’t have been taken from this earth, I know she’s looking over you and your lovely girls. I do agree that you John should write a book, you have such a way with words. I do BELIEVE!!!! God Bless. I do think about Gabby everyday just as I do Michele (my best friend). I would love to hear more stories from her short life, I never want Gabby to be forgotten, so please think about writing, it heals in more ways then you think, and it’s a great way to keep her in your heart.
    Take care of your family,

  7. Beautiful, John… Your family is in our prayers always. The last line of your post struck my heart, and it will be something I repeat to myself quite often. There ARE worse things in life than painting outside the lines. Things like families torn apart by something horrific like childhood cancer. Thank you for sharing your experience with so many of us. I, for one, am honored to be allowed to shrea in this with you and pray for you.

  8. Well said… our children are beautiful for who they are! Values have been lost in the world we live in, people are obsessed with looks, money, the house you live in, the car you drive, etc. This is not what is important & our children need to be taught that, the best way is through example. Hug your kids everyday, tell them you love them & let them be kids, they grow too quickly!

  9. Another beautifully well written piece as always from the heart your Girls “Carolynn,Gabby,Kattie,Maddie” are lucky to have you.

  10. So true John, we the parents make our children feel beautiful. When my son lost his hair the first and second time, I just kissed that bald had and saId, God gave you a beautiful head and I love seeing it. When he was 12 yrs old and lost his hair for the second time, I remember him putting on a hat to cover his head and wanted to keep in on in church and I said that was fine if his head was cold, but he was worried about people would think, then take the hat of in God’s house because if he was judged by the hair on or off his head, then they were not friends that he needed to worry about. To my delight, he sat down and took that hat off right away and quess what, all his friends came up to greet him and they didn’t really care. My also passed away from his cancer but he always had is friends by his side. We are the teachers….. love to you and your family.

  11. You know, every year the Breast Cancer does a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign(This also helps make money for the research of cancer), they ask women to post the strangest things on their facebook to raise awareness and money…. I wonder if we could get them to do the same for children’s cancer as well… I say we start posting BELIEVE till we break through!!

  12. You know what? What you just wrote makes a hell of a lot of sense. I never looked at it from that perspective and you know what? I should have. You and your wife are great parents, you prove that over and over again with the words you share. I thought that was a great idea, the bald barbie doll, to show the world that not everyone is perfect. But you’re right, that’s the fairytale. They don’t want that to change. I’d like to use some of your words if that’s ok the next time I see the barbie thing on fb, I think it will open a lot more eyes than just my own. God Bless and yes, I believe <3<3

  13. I really appreciate your views that give us the opportunity to see things in a new perspcective and I have to say I agree with you. When I was going through my cancer treatment, I only wanted to watch, read or listen to beautiful things. I was feeling lousy and didn’t need anything else bringing me down. And I agree with what people are saying, you need to write a book. You have a great talent for expressing your feelings and thoughts so eloquently. Your family is always in my prayers. God Bless. I BELIEVE!

  14. Well said John and you are absolutely correct. Thank you for pointing out what was right there in front of my eyes and I did not see it. I believe. XO

  15. You’re an amazing man! Your “down to earth beliefs” are right on! You have got to write a book…(perhaps you’ve already started to with these insightful posts)! I too was one that was on board about the bald barbies but I think that what you said has powerful insight to those of us that don’t have little girls! Your knowledge helps those of us that haven’t gone through your personal hell! Gabby has left her legacy through YOU! She was able to express herself at times, even without words, because you were and are there to fill in the blanks! You are very loving and creative and your girls will gain much in their lives through the way they are being brought up! You and your wife have a lot to teach the world through your Gabby! Everything happens for a reason and I believe God has plans that we will never understand, especially at the hardest times of our lives! Gaabby showed you alot through her illness! Sometimes no words speak the loudest! Please know that you make a difference everytime you enlighten us with your thoughts! Thank you for making a difference in this world….God bless & BELIEVE…<3

  16. Your point is well understood and …a sad, but truthful perspective! Your Gabby looked so sad, but willing to do whatever would make her better. Honest to God, what a trooper! Her little thumbs-up… It makes me sad to see her bending under the weight of that awful attack.

    In a completely different paragraph, I think after reading your outlook- it would be such a gross move for mattel to think that they were being politically correct in defining barbie in this manner and executively, should profit from this distinct demographic.

  17. Another great post.

    I think Mattel could easily provide a means for families to order a bald barbie if they would like. It’s too much to expect Mattel would go through with fully stocking a line of them.

    However, it seems Mattel is considering a Kardashian line of dolls. I just threw up a little.

  18. I disagree wholeheartedly being a young girl going thru cancer myself and losing all my hair, i think it wold have helped to have a barbie or baby doll look just like me. You say that bald is beautiful but yet u say barbie is not barbie without hair???

  19. John & Carolynn,

    Funny, I just blogged about the same thing- our perspective is a bit different though.

    Calli lost all of her hair, and is 14. I can totally see your point of view though, and other parents share it. I think, that each family copes differently, and for Calli, it was a joyful thing to hear about a bald barbie- when we shaved our heads, she felt belonging,and togetherness.

    She actually got a make a wish barbie given to her months ago, and made it bald herself- she cut off all of its hair and shaved its head. This was before all this news about a bald barbie- Calli herself – in coping and dealing with rejection and looks-made her own bald barbie, gave it radiation burns, surgery scars, radiation tattoos and horrible stretchmarks from the meds they gave her.

    It helped her to cope, and was therapy for her.

    I am not gonna post all my thoughts, as I already did on our blog- and am tired after a full day at Penn on Monday, and CHOP on Tuesday. You can read my post though- and comments are welcome!