Hayley Ziebart
moms@nrtoday.com

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February 1, 2013
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Hayley Ziebart: To know what popularity is like, try something other than cancer

My entire childhood was spent being average.

I would never claim to have been popular in any level of school. I was one of those kids who just dabbled in everything. I never really took to one particular interest, other than music, of course.

But music was outside of school -- first piano, then voice, then elementary school clarinet wrapped into a small band experience.

Aside from my music hobby, though, I really just did things as they caught my interest or were offered to my agenda, which left me sort of floating. I spent my years meeting and interacting with the kids who were really good at basketball, track, acting and academics and made friends and acquaintances from pretty much all areas and walks of the social scale.

In fact, by the time I was in high school, I had friends from choir, drama, key club, youth goups, photography class, ceramics, honor society, band, yearbook. I was even casual friends -- through some of these activities -- with the crowd we all called the "bridge kids."

Yet, I really didn't hang out with any of them outside of school or consider any of them to be close friends of mine. In fact, I've learned from having many of them on my Facebook now that, outside of our mutual activities, I knew very little about most of them.

However you want to look at it, I was FAR from being popular. In fact, I even recall multiple cases where the most popular kids that I was acquainted with, by the time I was in my upper high school years, would purposely walk right by me in the hallways, as if we'd never met.

Yeah, kids are mean and silly, but that's not the point of this blog. And, no, I'm not scarred for life from that scenario. Don't worry.

This, perhaps, is why my current scenario is so weirdly foreign to me. I have not lost sight of the fact that I am currently living in a 20,000 person town, but it's still somewhat overwhelming to experience so many people in this town knowing who I am.

At a choir concert I attended a couple of months ago, an old UCC friend stood in line to give me a hug and say hi, spouting off, "I feel like you're famous... I'm so lucky to know you!"

I laughed out loud.

Yeah. That's me. That super famous, bald Roseburg chick. Haha.

Last week, after an outing for my hubby's church basketball league - seven "reunions" and 40 minutes later - my husband, walking down the Y hallway toward our car, said, "I feel like you're a celebrity."

Again, the laughter.

Fame to me is your YouTube video gone viral or 19-plus kids later and everyone in the country has an opinion about you and your life decisions or biting your brother's finger out of complete toddler-humor and 508,898,367 views later, hundreds of world-wide strangers are still re-enacting their own version of it.

Outside of podunk little Roseburg, things are no different for me than before. Nobody knows me when I walk through the Portland streets, though they undoubtedly wonder things about "that bald lady" - imaginations wandering far into "I-wonder-how-long-she-has-to-live" land and such - but who can blame them. I did that before this, too... and you know what? I still do! My imagination wanders there every time some other patient sits down next to me at infusions. That's just human nature.

But other than the sweet nurses and a few continuing patients who do know me from our weekly interactions, things up there are no different.

I will admit it is funny to get a little taste of fame, if even on a small-scale like this. Making a grocery run to Freddies, innocently perusing some good, organic produce, when an unfamiliar face who minutes before was peaking curiously at me from the citrus aisle nervously approaches and asks, "Are you Hayley? Oh, I'm so-in-so's friend's cousin's aunt...I've been reading about you..."

BUT THEN... the kicker.

"...and I've been praying for you!"

Yeah.

Now, listen carefully, all...

If you've ever wanted to experience popularity, I would highly recommend anything other than getting cancer. Believe me when I say, I'd trade all of this extra love in a second to not be facing parts of this journey right now. Honest. I would. But I think that's exactly why I don't have that choice.

God knows. He knows that this journey is about Him using me to reach others.

I got a message from a friend about a week ago... a friend who has really had it out with God in the past 10 years or so of her life. Her message, like other very humbling ones I've received, went on to tell me I inspire her, a phrase I've come to realize is really just people's way of identifying the message God is teaching them as they watch me make this hike.

I have never once, so far, thought that this burden was an easy one to bear. In fact, as of late, I've been claiming quite the opposite. My physical being - bodily functions, appearance, etc. - have so quickly become foreign to me.

I will be honest with all of you. There are times where talking about my cancer for the 14th time in one day gets old.

Cancer does not define me. It is not who I am and it certainly hasn't replaced who I was before it became part of my daily walk.

However, it has changed me. And as I am beginning to learn, it is also changing others around me. When we first started this hike, I said, "If I have to do this, let it be for His Glory."

So if enduring yet another kind hug and inspired word from a complete stranger is the "steep cost" of God's moving and touching lives and hearts all around me?

Bring. It. On.

I can't think of a more worthy burden to bear.

Hayley Ziebart is married with two sons. Read her Fridays on Douglas County Moms. Also check out her personal blog at lifesprom.blogspot.com.

Believe me when I say, I\'d trade all of this extra love in a second to not be facing parts of this journey right now. Honest. I would. But I think that\'s exactly why I don\'t have that choice.


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The News-Review Updated Nov 18, 2013 07:34PM Published Feb 13, 2013 10:14AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.