For weeks, I’ve been pep-talking myself into acceptance of the inevitable baldness that comes from (most) chemo treatments.
Save for a couple of years of short styles during the early 90s and right around the time I had my babies, my hair has always been shoulder-length or longer.
Since my first cupcake session on June 14th, I have been terrified that my hair would start falling out without warning. I envisioned sitting in a restaurant and looking down to see a clump of hair bounce off my shoulder and land on my plate.
But my locks stayed firmly anchored and for a while and I thought maybe, just maybe—despite the oncologist telling me that one of the side effects of both Taxotere and Cytoxan was hair loss—I would defy the odds and hang on to my tresses.
If you’re heading down this path, know this: You will have fair warning of when it starts. You will notice one day that your hair has lost its lustre. You might feel a bit of tingling in your scalp and you will definitely notice an increasing amount left behind in your hairbrush. It will not, just out of the blue, detach from your head and land in your pasta.
On the day I could no longer deny my impending baldness, I packed a bag and drove to my sister’s house in Lacombe. My sister, Cheryl, is a hairdresser and if anyone was going to help me ease into a state of hairlessness, it would be her. On Canada Day she cut my hair to within an inch and a half of its dying life.
I stared into the mirror and saw my mother.
I was not ready for this. I felt so exposed. So old. If I felt like this now, how would I handle zero hair altogether?
With a short ‘do, I feel the automatic need to accessorize like hell: big earrings and bold lipstick for starters and eyebrows that will have to be on fleek 24/7. I will wear a scarf around my neck, a hat upon my head, bangles on my wrist and most certainly, an array of eyewear (the bigger, the better). Really, the options are endless.
But seriously, what is our deal with hair?
My sister, now in her 39th year of hairdressing said most of the women who come to her with long hair, would look adorable in a pixie cut, but you could die trying to convince a woman to go from long hair to super short.
Way too often when talking about going from long to short, a woman will say, “He LOVES my long hair.” (I’ve said that myself. Ugh.) I’ve also heard women say, “Oh, he’d kill me if I cut my hair.” Let’s hope that’s an exaggeration, but it shows how deeply we are tied to our roots and how deeply hair speaks to our femininity.
“If a man told me I couldn’t cut my hair, I’d shave it off, for sure,” said my sister but then, laughing, she added, “It’s my best feature! I have good hair; I get compliments on it. If you take that away, what would I get? ‘Oh, you have nice ankles!?’”
Hair is our crown. It is both a weapon and a treasure. It can empower and enslave. Hair is a security blanket and a statement. Hair is power.
When my daughter, Erin, said she was going to shave her head in support of me, I tried to dissuade her. I appreciated that she wanted to do it, but it was unnecessary, really. She wouldn’t listen. She was going to shave her head as an act of solidarity and that was that.
“You don’t have a choice in losing your hair,” Erin said to me as Cheryl ran the clipper over her head, “But I do. Plus, one day, if I ever have to go through chemo, then I won’t be terrified because I’ll at least know what it’s like to have no hair.”
I know. I have pretty awesome kids. Erin looked adorable with her short, glossy little “muskrat head”. I hoped that I looked half as good as her when the time came for me to shave mine.
Today, I woke up knowing my time had come.
I looked in the mirror and ran my fingers through my short hair. My scalp hurt more than ever and I grimaced at the amount of hair that came out in my hands. My usual thick hair was thin and drab and I could see white scalp peeking through here and there. The old clippers I had found in a drawer at my dad’s house felt heavy and cumbersome. I turned the power on, put the device up to my temple and ran it like a lawnmower above both ears. There was definitely no turning back.
I stepped back and considered the result. I actually liked the whitewall tires look. I felt like a thug. I sent the picture to my daughter, Paige. She said I looked like a badass. My nephew said I’m very “punk looking”. It’s true, right? Give me a leather jacket, a kilt, and a safety pin through my nose and I’m there!
I wouldn’t have minded keeping this look for a few days, but I couldn’t stop with just the whitewalls; I had to keep going. I buzzed my entire head…and then I went into the shower and cried.
I didn’t recognize me. I looked SO strange. My head felt like soft Velcro all over. I figured I could probably run quicker now that there was less drag—that is if I was a runner but I hate running. My bike helmet will probably need to be tightened. My head feels so small. I feel so naked.
But then, I began to feel something different. Something like defiance. I felt empowered.
I was scared but I worked through that. I was angry at losing my long hair, but I dealt with that. I let go of the anger because I knew it wouldn’t do me any good. I pushed through all the sadness and the terror and I came out the other side feeling pretty fantastic.
Today was tough but I know well enough by now that there is no triumph without struggle and pushing through the stuff that scares us is worth the reward. Always.
What I also know is that lipstick is going to be de rigueur, that’s for sure.
As for a wig? I’m not so sure that will be necessary.
#baldisbeautiful #faceyourfear #scarvesFTW #empowered #breastcancer #cupcakes