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Kind words from a stranger helped Laura Holmes-Haddad While undergoing chemo

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Time now for My Unsung Hero, our series from the team at Hidden Brain. My Unsung Hero tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else. Today's story comes from Laura Holmes Haddad. In March of 2017, Laura was undergoing chemotherapy for stage 4 breast cancer. She was 37 years old. She had two small children. One day, she went for an X-ray at a large hospital in San Francisco.

LAURA HOLMES HADDAD: I got X-rays and scans constantly, so it was nothing new to me. But I was getting used to the anonymous feeling of being a patient, just a medical record number shivering in a white-and-blue hospital gown and scratchy blue hospital socks. And I was completely bald. I was still adjusting to life without hair and feeling very self-conscious. And I didn't wear a wig, but I wouldn't go outside my house without my headscarf. But in the X-ray room, I had to take off my scarf, and I was so upset and distraught about being bald in front of a stranger. But the X-ray tech, a man, was bald also, which made me feel a little bit better. He was average height, wearing scrubs, and he had very kind, blue eyes. And he was very gentle with me as he helped me onto the table and adjusted the weighted vest. And what stood out the most was his melodic Irish accent. And he just emanated kindness.

And 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 the man that people stared at me and how much it upset me. And I hadn't prepared for that with cancer. I hadn't prepared for the staring. And he looked at me right in the eyes and said something that took my breath away. He said, they're staring at you because you're beautiful. And it was said with such kindness and sincerity that it still stays with me today.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HADDAD: I might have asked his name at the time, but with chemo brain and the years that have passed, I've forgotten it. I hope he is listening. His innate kindness that day made a terrified cancer patient feel, well, beautiful.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KELLY: Laura Holmes Haddad is a writer living in West Tisbury, Mass. She's now been in remission for a decade. You can find more stories from My Unsung Hero wherever you listen to podcasts. And to share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.