"I began to learn that losing your hair is like watching a big line being drawn in the sand, separating your old life from your new one. It's usually the first visible sign of your illness to the outside world, and it's a shock to see yourself in the mirror or as you pass by a shop window." Taken from "Any Day with Hair is a Good Hair Day" by Michelle Rapkin.
Like any good friend, she fed me and gave me a glass of wine. Then we sat on the back deck for the final cut. She took out her electric clippers and went to town like Edward Scissorhands. As she mowed through my scalp, I repeated the mantra I have been saying throughout this whole breast cancer débâcle, "There is no other choice, I have to do this, there is no other choice", just to reassure myself.
It really was THE only choice. My scalp was so itchy and annoyed from the impending hair loss, like someone was constantly pulling on a pony tail. These feelings were reminders of what was to come, fueling the anxiety even more. What would I look like bald? Can I handle not having any hair? How will my family cope with this? I felt victimized by my hair and it was slowly torturing me. It was time for me to take control.
The fear of the unknown is always so much worse than the reality, isn't it?
Once Edward finished her work, I breathed a sigh of relief. My 5 year old son had been watching and all he could do was giggle. (He actually handled this way better than my short hair cut 2 weeks ago, go figure!). My scalp was very dry, so we cleaned it up and then Edward applied some overpriced, "too good for someone's scalp" cream. Ahh, it felt beautiful, clean, cool and comfy. I decided right then that all women should shave their heads once in their lifetime, just to shake things up and see how good it really feels. Honestly, ladies, this could be the tumors and the chemo talking, but you must try it!
Part of me thinks I should be crying, but I don't feel like it. Perhaps I am slightly numb to all that has happened and I've just learned to accept things as they come now. Or, maybe losing my hair just isn't the big deal that I thought it would be? Or, I'm just so effing hot that now it's a welcome relief! And all my Pink Sisters who have been through this have said, "It's only hair, it doesn't define you. It will grow back".
Looking in the mirror is very strange, but then it's not. It's just me, only balder. I'm still me.
Sadly, so many women are going bald as we speak and most are probably traumatized and embarassed to go out in public. The day after the Big Cut, I went to the most public place on Earth, the Mall. I'll admit, I spent a little too much time adjusting my head scarf, for fear that someone would yank it off my head (who does that and why would I fear it so much?). But once it felt secure, I just ventured out with my family and tried to act normal, well, as normal as an abnormal person can act. I went about my business as usual and life went on. In the big scheme of things, there are a lot freakier looking people roaming around the mall than a 45 year old with a pretty pink scarf with dangling beads on her head.
It's a funny thing. Of all the yucky side effects of chemo; the nausea, diarrhea, body aches, fatigue, and hair loss, the one that stays with you the most is the hair loss. The other symptoms come and go and can even be remedied with a pill. But the hair loss stays for many months and hair regrowth doesn't guarantee you will be back to your old self when the cancer nightmare is over. I may be in for a head of kinky gray hair 6 months from now! Who really knows?
And that old self I was before is already gone and forever changed anyway. So, any hairdo that rears its ugly head will be welcomed by the new me. After all, it's only hair, right?