I will began this blog by saying that it has taken me 4 ½ months to be able to complete and post this blog. I began writing it shortly after we shaved my hair off on March 4th, yet every time I sat down to pen my thoughts, I would either draw a blank or would be so overcome with emotion that I just couldn’t finish. Losing your hair isn’t just a physical side effect of chemotherapy, it is an emotional one, one that reaches down into the depths of your soul and touches the heart of your identity. It’s visible evidence that something isn’t quite right in your body. Hair loss isn’t limited to just your head either. Eventually you lose your eyebrows and your eyelashes (I miss them!) and your body hair (I won’t complain about not having to shave my legs for months!! ) It changes your appearance and it takes time to get used to it. Months later I have grown accustomed to my bald head. I’m much more comfortable being without a head covering around my family and friends, letting that bald, round head shine – especially when it’s blazing hot out and I am crawling up the trail, literally! I am able to look in the mirror and most times I don’t even bother with the fact that I have no hair. I discovered that I can take naps without having to worry about messing my hair up. I can drive with the window down and let the wind blow as much as it wants to. I can take showers at night and not have to fool with fixing my hair in the mornings, thus getting to sleep later. The perks have been many. So as I post this today, I am thankful for the progressive adjustments. I am thankful for those who contributed to my hat fund and collection and allowed me to look fashionable these past months. I am thankful that I am 3 weeks post-chemotherapy and I have a nice little layer of baby hair growing back already. I am thankful for all of the positive words and encouragement to boost my struggling self-esteem and keep me smiling. Most of all, I am thankful to finish this blog and finally get the words out of my soul that have been churning on the inside for so long. And I am thankful for YOU for sharing my journey with me.
Rebellious Boob Chronicles – Chemotherapy and Losing Your Hair
One of the things I dreaded most about chemotherapy was losing my hair. Even before it was confirmed that I had cancer, I had nightmares about being bald. Once I received the diagnosis I would catch myself standing in front of the mirror, holding all of my hair back, trying to imagine what I would look like bald. My kids would walk by and be like…mom what are you doing? (Insert a strange look on their face)
Once the news was out and I started chemotherapy, everyone knew it was inevitable. I have the best of friends and every one would do their best to console me. “It will grow back!” or “Ah, It’s just hair!” they would say. The truth is, yes it will grow back, however to say that my hair is just hair is quite an understatement. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my hair since it started growing 49 years ago and it became a part of who I am, a part if my identity. I’ve had long hair, at one point it was blonde and curly. However, the older I got and the more I began to discover who I truly am deep on the inside, the shorter and darker my hair got until finally, I found MY hairstyle and it became my icon. People who didn’t know me personally would recognize me by the infamous red streak that I wore forever. My children’s friends would say, “oh yeah, your mom is the one with the short red hair.” Strangers would stop me and compliment me on how much they liked my hair. Well most strangers were in my favor. I remember once a man stopped me in the grocery store and felt the need to tell me that most men didn’t like women with short hair. I come a frog’s hair of letting him know that most women didn’t like men with short …., but I refrained and just told him it was okay, that I didn’t like most men and went my merry way without cutting the fool. So without much ado about nothing, I think you get the point. My hair was an important part of me.
At my first visit with my oncologist, my doctor was gracious enough to talk to me about the most common side effects of chemotherapy and how long it usually started for them to show up. Hair loss usually occurs 10 to 14 days after the first treatment. Wow. I thought I would have longer than that but I began to mentally prepare myself for the loss that was coming. At first it was just a hair or two here and there that I would find or would stick to my hands. However, the second weekend after my first treatment, I was getting ready for an adventure and when I went to fluff my hair glue through my hair, I brought my hands down and they were covered in my dark brown locks. Ugh! Day after day the same scenario until I came to the conclusion that the inevitable was happening and it was time to take control. Thus I planned an “Ode to my hair” head shaving party for March 4th, the evening of my second chemotherapy treatment.
My kiddos, my hairdresser, and my grand babies were present and some of my awesome girlfriends came bearing gifts of wine, appetizers and desserts. I parked a chair in the center of the kitchen and the party began. The buzz of the clippers hummed a somber melody. We shared lots of laughter and a few tears were shed. We made videos and took selfies. My oldest son, whose hair was way down his back, shaved his head also in honor of his momma. I was surrounded by tons of love and support and it made such a bittersweet event and that first glance in the mirror a little more bearable. It was done. My hair was gone. I was bald.
Now came the rush of fears. Would people look at me different? Would my boyfriend struggle with having a bald girlfriend? Would my friends avoid being seen with me? And of course, my greatest fear about it all was how would my children and grandchildren react to having a bald momma and Momsy. I know, it sounds silly to even say that out loud, but every day and especially through this whole ordeal, they have been and always will be my greatest concern. It wasn’t long after we finished with the new hairless style that my phone starting blowing up with notifications. My children had posted some of the selfies we took on their social media. Yikes! I admit that at first I was a little shocked. I wasn’t sure that I was ready for thousands of people to see me with no hair! However, as I began to read their proclamations of love, support, and encouragement and the sweet, positive responses from others, my heart was flooded with gratitude. They were proud of their momma, hair or no hair, and they wanted their world to know it! I was overwhelmed and the fears I had melted away. I was thankful. I was blessed beyond measure. I knew in those precious moments that no matter what I had to face through this journey that I would be okay, and more importantly, I knew they would be okay. I knew that someday soon, I would be better than I was at this moment.
March 4, 2019