Sunday, July 2, 2017
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Today is my last day with hair. The chemo has taken its toll and what was once a source of pride is now a source of embarrassment/humiliation. Gone are the long, strong, thick and healthy strands that contributed to a messy mane of blonde hair and in its place are short, broken, sparse and unhealthy strands clinging randomly to my pale pink scalp. Where I used to feel like a lioness, I now feel like a cat with mange.
It is time to shave it off.
Am I ready?
I knew that I would lose my hair when I agreed to move forward with chemotherapy. I prepared by visiting my stylist (who also happens to be my best and lifelong friend) and having her cut my hair short as I heard it was less traumatic to lose your hair when short than when long. In reality it is no less traumatic, just a little less frightening to find clumps of shorter hair in your hand, on your brush, on the floor and on your pillow than it may have been to find the same amount of longer hair. She custom fit a wig and ensured it would match my hair beautifully and she has already styled it so that I am ready for whatever lies ahead. I purchased several new scarves, chemo caps and summer hats for those days when a wig is too much.
I have intellectualized the loss and understand that it is temporary. A year or so after my chemotherapy ends I will once again have hair, albeit short hair, and should be able to go out without a wig or a hat. Several years from now as long as there are no recurrences of my cancer and no further need for chemo, I may even have shoulder length hair again. I could be happy with that.
I suppose I am ready and yet…
Emotionally, I am anxious about being bald. It will change the way people interact with me, it will make my cancer “visible” to others, and it will make me feel vulnerable. I was comfortable with the way the world and I interacted; I don’t need that to change.
Superficially (and now let’s add guilt and shame for my vanity to my emotional anxiety), I am a “girlie” girl and my hair is important to me. I am simply going to miss my hair.
I have always had hair – lots and lots of hair. It has been a defining physical trait. It is tied deeply to my sense of femininity. It is part of my identity as a woman and making it “look good” has been something I’ve enjoyed ever since I was young and my mother rolled my hair in sponge curlers. Over the years, I have changed my hair with my mood and it has been brown and red and blonde and grey. It has been curly and wavy, worn neatly up or wildly down and has almost always been long. Losing it as I am, in strands and clumps and chunks, makes me sad. And it makes me angry. It is surprisingly traumatic.
But it’s just hair. It will grow back.
I am ready.
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