An X-ray tech made Laura feel beautiful as she struggled with hair loss during chemo
This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team, about people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.
In 2017, Laura Holmes Haddad was undergoing chemotherapy for stage four breast cancer. She was 37 and had two small children. One spring day in March, she went for an X-ray at a large hospital in San Francisco. She had already had so many that the routine was all too familiar.
"I was getting used to the anonymous feeling of being treated as just a medical record number shivering in a white and blue hospital gown and scratchy blue hospital socks," Holmes Haddad said.
Holmes Haddad was also still getting used to the fact that she didn't have any hair. It made her incredibly self-conscious. To make herself more comfortable going out, she would wear a head scarf to cover her bald head. But on that particular day, she had to take her headscarf off for the X-ray.
"I was so upset and just distraught about being bald in front of a stranger," Holmes Haddad said.
The stranger, however, was bald himself. He was an X-ray tech with blue eyes and what Holmes Haddad described as a "melodic Irish accent."
"He just emanated kindness," Holmes Haddad said. "I'm not sure what came over me, but as I was lying down on my back, waiting for the X-ray and holding my scarf, I told [him] that people stared at me and how much it upset me, and I hadn't prepared for that with cancer."
The man listened, and then looked straight into Holmes Haddad's eyes and said something that took her breath away: "They're staring at you because you're beautiful."
"It was said with such kindness and sincerity, that it still stays with me today, as I remain in remission," she said.
She can't recall his name, but Holmes Haddad said she will always remember how he made her feel in that moment.
"His innate kindness that day made a terrified cancer patient feel, well... beautiful."
My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to [email protected].
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.