Our hair is a huge part of our identity. It is often called a woman’s crowning glory.
I have had long and very long hair most of my adult life. By very long, I mean past my butt. My hair is part of my identity. It is part of my mannerisms, how I move through the world.
You have cancer. Damn. Your treatment will be chemotherapy. Yikes. One of my first questions was “will I lose my hair?” Without skipping a beat, or slowing down, my doctor said, “Yes.” And moved on to the next question. I did not move on quite as quickly.
There are all the stages of grief when you know you are going to lose a part of yourself. I went through all of them (and I am still going through them). There was denial – maybe I won’t lose my hair. I talked to a lot of people, read a lot, concluded I am losing my hair. Next stage. To be honest, I moved all the way to acceptance faster than I thought I would. I cannot control whether or not the chemo makes me lose my hair. I can control how I deal with it. (Hint: this does not mean I like it).
So, before my first round of chemo I went to get a haircut. I am sure it was the strangest appointment people had seen. We started by styling my long lovely hair. Big full spiral curls, hairspray, the works. Then my husband and I went outside and took pictures of me with my pretty long hair. As I went back into the beauty shop everyone said how beautiful my hair was. And then we washed all the curls out and started the cut. There were a few odd looks.
My hair dresser cut ponytails so I can donate my hair. I have not decided yet if I am going to, but the hair is saved just in case. And he had a real cute style for me. It was such a relief that he had thought about it because I really didn’t know what to do. Now I have a cute, wash and wear page boy.
They say your hair starts to fall out around the third week after you start chemotherapy.
It was right on time.
There is nothing quite as horrifying as washing your hair and coming away with literally fistfuls of hair. That was Monday morning, the third week after my first round of chemo. My hairbrush filled. I made the appointment I had been dreading to get my head shaved. That would happen on Friday. Everyday the hair loss increased – more hair in the shower, more hair in the hair brush, an increasing rain of hair until by Friday I was actually ready to shave my head.
My hairdresser is a hero. He has been amazingly kind and supportive through all of this. He shaved me head to a 1 guard so I have stubble. He gave me a gift of essential oils to help ease the itching and sensitivity on my scalp. And refused to let me pay him. This was a have to do it, not a haircut. And he is already thinking about how we will work with my hair as it grows back in. We are both kind of hoping my hair comes back in curly.
And my dear husband helped me take the stubble down to skin. This was not fun for him. In fact, it was the last thing he ever thought he would have to do. It was necessary. My scalp is increasingly sensitive and the stubble was making it worse. Taking it to skin allowed me better treat the sensitive scalp skin. This was pretty emotional for both us.
I am not going to lie. I was going to say I am not sure how I feel about this, but this sucks. It makes me cry. I feel a real sense of loss. Loss of part of me. Loss of my identity. I know I am not my hair, but my hair is (or was) part of me. I went from hair down to the middle of my back to stubble in less than a month. When I look in the mirror it doesn’t look like me.
I am looking at all sorts of hats, scarves, and wigs and none of them feel right to me, I have caved and am wearing a hat to protect my sensitive head but I can’t say I like it. But this is what you do to kill the cancer. This is part of the price. Someone asked me what I would give up to get rid of the cancer. I answered that I have already given up my hair.
And this is the hardest post I have written. Did I mention this sucks? Well it does. Fuck you cancer.