If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?
Losing my hair to cancer was so hard for me. Losing my breasts didn’t mean as much as seeing the slow loss of my carefully crafted locks fall to the ground. The day I crumpled in the parking lot of the medical center where my biopsy was performed I knew that I had cancer. I did not have test results yet, but I knew. I also knew that I would lose my hair. Nobody had said anything about chemotherapy, but I knew. The morning after the biopsy, I woke up in tears and told my husband that I had to get my hair done in the next few days. I was facing a cancer diagnosis, I had some sixth sense that I was going to lose my hair, and I needed to pay over $100 to get my highlights revved up. Makes perfect sense, right?
Even though I had surgery to remove the tumors, the surgeon was unable to get perfect margins. This paved the way for chemotherapy to enter, stage left. Dr. D said that not everybody loses their hair to chemo, but that it was rare that people didn’t. His voice got a tiny bit quieter when he said, “…and you have such beautiful, long hair”.
A few weeks before I was to begin chemo, I went in to have my hair cut, which I chronicled in Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow (pun intended). This was so smart. It was hard to see my hair start to fall out, but it would have been worse to have long, straight stands on my pillow each morning.
My hair began to fall out about 12 days after the first chemo infusion, and I was terrified and fascinated to the same time. I could pull out giant clumps of hair and still have more left on my head. I had a lot of hair! At work, I would have to ask colleagues to check my back for rogue hair loss sticking to my back. At one point I wore hats to try to contain the shedding. Finally, it was time to shave my mane (Good-Bye Hair–or–Hello For Next Time).
Stupidly, I had an irrational fear that my hair would never grow back. There are dark corners of the Internet where people say this has happened, and of course, I imagined the same might happen to me. This time last year, when I was going to radiation every day, I began to see some stubble grow in. My eyelashes and eyebrows wouldn’t (and still haven’t) made a big return, but the stubble began to lengthen ever so slowly.
Right now, I have a lot of hair. Every bit of it is curly and thick, but it’s hair. You will often hear me say, “this is not my hair,” because it really isn’t. I was not a curl laden kid before. In fact, I used to spend over 30 minutes each morning adding curl with my trusty curling iron. Although I get tons of compliments on this curly nest, I have been known to say that I am on a quest to grow my hair Rapunzel length. I miss my pony tails. I miss running soft, silky hair through my fingers. I miss gathering my hair in my hands after my shower to squeeze the last drops of water out. I miss flipping my hair off my shoulder–an act I still perform unconsciously several times per week. I have no hair to push back, but the hair flip was/is part of my natural gestures.
I do not doubt that I will one day claim this hair as my own. The curl will probably fade away as will the pain of losing a delicate piece of outward beauty. The simple truth is that for me, hair loss equaled loss of control, loss of beauty, and loss of femininity. The complex and undeniable truth is that I know that all of these things can be recaptured with time.
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ ~Keats