Jane Roper

Writer. Blogger. Hater of Olives.

Pretty Girl

I dropped the girls off at their February vacation day camp yesterday, and at first Clio didn’t want to take her (winter) hat off.

It took me by surprise. She hardly ever wears a hat indoors anymore, and has enough hair now that it *almost* looks like she just has short hair on purpose. But you don’t see that many girls her age with very short hair. I remember being Clio’s age or a little younger and hating the short hair cut my mom had given me, because I was the only girl in my class who didn’t have long hair:




I can understand, though, why Clio was self-conscious. Going to camp was a completely new situation, with a new group of kids and teachers. Last month when Alastair took the girls to their first class at a theater program they’re doing, she didn’t want to take her hat off at first either.

She wouldn’t take the hat off yesterday until I explained to the teacher why her hair was short.* And then she did. Maybe she was more worried about the teachers’ reaction than the other kids’. Or maybe she just wanted to make sure the teachers had the backstory in case any of the kids stared or made her uncomfortable.

(*When I explain the situation to people these days, I’m torn over whether or not to say Clio *has* leukemia. Because hopefully she doesn’t anymore. More often than not I say she’s being treated for leukemia. Not that it probably makes much difference to the average person.)

Last night, I asked Clio how it went without her hat at camp. “Well,” she said. “Two kids asked me if I was a boy or a girl. But one of them was just a little guy, so he doesn’t understand things.”

I’m amazed by her resilience and strength sometimes.

I’m also amazed when I think about how much her appearance has changed over the past year and a half, and how quickly we’ve adjusted to each new change. As it is with any sort of physical changes in people, you don’t really notice day by day or week by week. But when I go back and look at pictures, it’s kind of amazing:



February, 2014


December 2013

December 2013


October 2014

October 2013



August, 2013


June 2013

June 2013 – Before she stopped taking high dose steroids, which are responsible for the puffiness of her face.




May 2013


March 2013

March 2013


February 2013

February 2013


December 2012

December 2012 – right after the big haircut


November 2012

November 2012



September 2012



August 2012


July 2012

July 2012


Day zero

June 2012, hours before we found out.


May 2012. Before we knew.

May 2012. The twilight of an era.


Of course, some things are constant: Her smile. The twinkle in her eye. But the shape of her face due to the steroids, and the hair loss of course, have changed her appearance so dramatically during this time. When I look at pictures of Elsa across the same period, she changes too, of course, looking gradually more grown up and angular. She has sprouted like a weed in terms of her height. But overall, the changes have been much subtler:


June 2012


October 2013

October 2013


Now that Clio’s hair is coming back in, and her face isn’t as bloated, she looks different than she did for much of last year. But I hesitate to say that she looks “more like herself” again. I remember wishing for that —  that she would somehow go back to her pre-cancer, pixie-looking self. As if everything would revert back to the way it was, and all of this would be just sort of a detour.

Maybe she will end up looking more like a natural extension of the girl she was at five, before cancer. But I don’t know. Her hair has a different texture now. Her bones haven’t grown the way they normally would have. And her character hasn’t necessarily developed the same way it would have, either, and doesn’t who we are shape the way we look, at least to some extent?

I do feel a little wistful when I look back at pictures of her before all this:



But mostly it’s just wistfulness for our old, innocent life. And that wistfulness is not nearly as strong as it used to be, when it was something more like grief.

I am just so grateful that Clio is still with us on this earth, being Clio, in all her beautiful physical forms.




  1. Kathy Sands-Boehmer

    February 19, 2014 at 10:53 am

    You have an amazing family and I happen to think that Clio is one of the most beautiful children I’ve ever seen. Her spirit shines through in every single photo (pre and post treatment). Elsa is a pretty darn spectacular sister too!

  2. Both your girls are lovely and beautiful. This will all be a distant thing in the past one day and she will be all grown up and will hardly remember it. She has the whole rest of her life ahead of her. She will turn out just fine and grow up to be a lovely young woman.

  3. Your girls are both so sweet looking. You’re a lucky mom.

    It’s interesting how much what we look like impacts how we are treated and how we see ourselves. I remember many years back when my brother was attacked by a dog and ended up with Frankenstein Monster like stitches on his face for a while, and he was really troubled by how uncomfortable strangers were with him in public. He was self-conscious in a way I don’t think he’d ever been before. Who we are inside matters most, but who we are on the outside is most often how we are judged. I’m glad Clio will have a chance to recover a sense of control or at least something more natural about her physical appearance. She’s an impressive little girl.

  4. Go Clio! She’s one brave kid, and you guys should be proud of her.

  5. Cutiepuss maximus. This will annoy you (sorry) and is not really my cup of tea either, but you fine folks seem to be proving that (annoying) maxim: life only gives you what you can handle. You have done such fine work here Jane.

  6. The ladies are gorgeous with or without hair. Clio is such a trooper and hope one day she realizes her strength and beauty.

  7. This is so lovely. Wistful, yes, and acknowledging of all the loss and difficulty, but so much a celebration of Clio, too. Lucky mama. Lucky girl. To have each other, I mean. xoxo

  8. What a touching retrospective. That timeline is so wild. It’s been such a short time on the calendar for so many big changes.

  9. Both the writing and photos in this post are gorgeous. You have captured Clio so beautifully. I can’t help but think she will be very grateful to read this when she is older.

  10. Your family is so resilient. I’m so impressed by the grace you have all shown during this battle!

  11. I hate that she has to feel self-conscious for even one second. I’m pretty sure the first thing most peoples would notice about her is her joyful smile, not her short hair.

  12. Your writing is so beautiful,Jane, and so insightful( is that a word?).You and Alastair are incredible parents,and the children are truly remarkable. Alastair, congratulations on the Grammy. You certainly deserved it. I WOULD HA VE written EARLIER ,but I was sick with a viral intestinal upset, that laid me low for several days. I’m fine now, but the snow and cold have kept me inside and busy with all kinds of chores. No,I am not shoveling the driveway. I think of you often , love the pictures you send and of course the blogs Jane writes. MIMI

    I haven’t been able to get to my mail box, but did you receive the books I sent the girls?

  13. Oh Jane, it’s so touching…Clio is simply gorgeous, that beautiful smile is amazing and looking through the photos, it’s so remarkable that she’s got such a genuine, huge smile on her face despite the situation, whether on holiday or in a hospital bed with wires stuck to her…She is an amazing soldier and once this is all behind you, her, she will grow into such a lovely woman like her mother;) X

  14. Danielle Alleven

    February 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    This made me cry, so poignant.

  15. So amazing and so beautiful. I am so proud of Clio, my grand-daughter and her amazing mom, dad and sister. Your love and strength will bring Clio through this.

  16. who we are is because of what we have been through. Clio will be one strong beautiful woman!!!!

  17. jeremy beth kusmin

    February 19, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Hi jane-its Jeremy…from hidden valley. I have been following your unbelievably well written blog for a while now. Beyond being an outstanding writer, you and your husband seem like amazing people, parents and survivors. I pray for clio and your beautiful family. Be well

  18. As they grow, they each just look like themselves! And, they look like their parents, too. Isn’t that the best? Clio looks so much like Alastair and Elsa looks just like you, except when they don’t! We are all keeping our fingers crossed that once the treatment is done, it’s over with and years from now, you’ll look back at these photos with Elsa’s and Clio’s children on your lap.

  19. I don’t post very often but I read your blog regularly. I think Clio’s hair is fantastic. Only a pretty girl can carry off short hair as well as she can. Her smile lights up the whole frame. My daughter also has short hair (mainly because it is very fine and if it were any longer, the comb-out battles would be epic) and all the other girls her age (6) have long hair. She used to protest but now she likes that it’s different. Remind Clio that it’s pretty awesome to chart your own path–even if it’s with hair. She looks beautiful.

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