Socking It to Cancer: In Praise of Silliness

Yesterday the Book of Faces kindly reminded me that it was two years ago to the day that I kicked off (hee hee) wearing silly socks to treatments as a way to cheer myself through the process. I had been diagnosed with my first recurrence at the time and was beginning a six-week-long course of daily weekday radiation treatments, alongside which I also took a chemotherapy pill. There was plenty of opportunity for lots of silly socks!

The sock idea was serendipitous. The ultrasound that revealed the cancer took place in mid-December, and I’d just found a pair of Christmas socks that made me giggle–black and white cats wearing red scarves, their faces positioned so that they could peer over the tops of your boots, with little shaped pink ears for accents. The few pairs of silly socks in my bureau at the time were either cat- or holiday-themed (sometimes both), and though I’d never really warmed to the trend of wearing novelty socks as a visible fashion statement, the prospect of peekaboo cats made me smile at a time when smiles were in short supply. So I bought them and donned them and posted a photo (pictures or it didn’t happen) while we were waiting for test results.

Peekaboo kitties

It wasn’t until I received a package with three additional pairs of silly socks from my mom, though, that the idea of wearing silly socks to treatment really took root. She’d seen some colorful happy face and floral socks at her local drugstore and thought them cheerful, so she packed up three pairs with an encouraging note and sent them to me. The lavender in the happy face socks matched my radiation mask, so I decided I’d wear them the first day of treatment.

The lavender smileys faced my direction, too!

Then, I started thinking more about socks: how most people wear them most of the time, but they’re often covered by shoes or boots or pant legs. Present, but invisible. That got me thinking about how so many people face challenges–illness, loss, pain, grief–that are invisible to others. Wearing silly socks seemed a way not only to cheer myself up throughout treatment, but also to honor the unseen battles so many others face daily. I decided to call them #sillysocksforstrength and invited others to join me in wearing their own silly socks, in honor of all those fighting battles unseen, on #funsocksfridays.

I was–and still am–overwhelmed by how many people wore socks on Fridays, and even more so by the many gifts of socks I’ve received. I think I may well have the best curated collection of silly socks anywhere! My collection is wide-ranging. It includes lots of cat socks, both with and without messages. Next in the sock drawer are the other animal socks, bird socks, ladybug socks (my family nickname), and magical creature socks (yay for unicorns and mermaids!). Perhaps unsurprisingly (and a little embarrassingly?), I have an arts and literature category. Then there are the role model socks that feature people like RBG and Wonder Woman, cheeky message socks, bright florals and stripes, and socks for different holidays. I still wear silly socks not only to each treatment, but almost daily. The socks themselves make me smile, and the kindness and care they embody gives me strength.

I’ve also seen some of my friends gift silly socks to others they know who are having a difficult time, and it makes me happy to see the practice spread. I’ve gifted several pairs myself. In many ways the best part has been seeing other people have fun with their socks. Silliness is underrated, and I think we should all embrace being silly more often. It’s a tough world out there, and a little spot of joy on your feet is an excellent antidote.

Here’s to #sillysocksforstrength! May we wear them, may we share them, may we smile whenever we see them. Sock on, friends!

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