Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Affairs of the Hair

I hit a major milestone last week. I got my hair cut. I'm defining the word "cut" liberally here, but I did actually go to a salon, get my hair washed and shaped. It was quite a different experience than my old days of my long hair being slathered in goop then folded into pieces of tinfoil all around my head, long periods of time spent under the dryer with a magazine ... and all of that before the cut even started. But it still had all of the relaxing benefits time at the salon can provide. It was a very proud moment for me and my hair follicles.

I have completely lost my hair and grown it back, twice. It's gone from bald to stubbly to scruff and all of the stages in between several times over. But this has been the first time since all of this began that it's grown back enough to warrant a shape and to almost, almost pass as an intentionally cut hairstyle. I was just about there around Christmastime last year and was able to style a mini faux hawk but that all ended with my first shocking relapse and is quickly as it grew in, it was that quickly gone again.

Entering the salon, I was wary. My stylist had most certainly thought I "broke up" with her long ago as I hadn't been back in 15 months. Granted I've broken up with many a stylist in the past but I really loved her. I didn't know how I was going to broach the subject of my absence: "It wasn't you, it was me ... " wasn't exactly apropos. Plus, I look like a completely different person since last time she saw me.

Turns out that wasn't a worry. The salon had made a donation to the golf fundraiser our friends put on for us and the day before, the local paper had arrived which contained a post-event story and included a detailed account of my cancer journey. She knew everything before I had to say anything. No need to break the awkward ice.

Before we started hair talk, she pulled out a stool and sat right across from me and told me just how stunned she was as her eyes welled. She's only a few years older than me. She had read theSimsbury Life article, saw my name on her schedule and looked back realizing that in fact the last time she saw me was in May 2009, the same month the article indicated I was diagnosed in. I explained that yes, just one week after I saw her for a cut and full highlight I was diagnosed with cancer. Two weeks after, I shaved my head. The tears that filled her eyes said everything then she popped back with: "Well, I've worked with post-chemo hair many times before ... and don't worry, you're hair will calm back down again."

My hair had started to creep into a clown wig style fro. After a recent doctor visit when I had to face a mirror while waiting for the doctor to enter the room, I explained to Craig: "If Lionel Richie and Justin Timberlake had a love child, this is what its hair would look like."

On humid days especially, the super tight curls were getting out of control. They didn't bother me on the top so much, but I had no idea how to tame the sides. The curls were even creeping down the back of my neck creating something beginning to resemble a kinky mullet – frightening. I needed help. I adore ringlets on other women, I've just never before had to maintain these sprouted objects. Well, except for that bad spiral perm circa '92.

With that mission in mind she started by washing my hair, which felt so, so nice, especially the head massage she gave me while rubbing in the conditioner. Then out came the scissors and the buzzer. It was a bit saddening watching the little ringlets of hair fall to the floor after they had worked so hard to sprout. In early July I was completely and utterly bald, including eyelashes and eyebrows. It amazes me to think about the progress made in just over three months and no matter how differently it grew back, I love every strand of it.

She shaped my sides and taught me how to use a wax to style it and to tousle the curly beast on top. I actually got choked up when she gave me a hand mirror to hold and spun my chair around to view my new style from 360 degrees. To an outsider the change was subtle, but to me, it made a huge difference. I didn't look like a post-chemo patient. I looked like a chic, hip, modern woman.

"It looks almost like I did this on purpose," I said, smiling.

She laughed and agreed that we are getting there. She didn't charge me for the cut. That got me really emotional and I gave her a big hug.

I walked into our front door at home completely beaming.

"Wow, what are you so happy about?" says Craig, not noticing the before and after difference. This is the same result I'd get after two hours in the salon chair and it made me laugh.

Months back Craig said to me: "I don't even notice that you are bald. I don't notice your hair. I just look at you and see you." I do my best to do the same. I think this is why I haven't worn my wig since the cruise we took late June. It's just not me and I can't get comfortable with it. But for that time and those moments it was right.

I can't get too used to this current look though. I will lose my hair yet again with the next transplant. But for now, it looks, dare I say it, cute. However, I've lost my eyelashes again and my eyebrows are barely hanging on as a result of the Bendamustine, but beggars can't be choosers. When this is all over I could care less whether I'm left permanently hairless or having developed Werewolf Syndrome if it means I'm still here.

Hair – A Retrospective of the Past Three Years:


  1. i know everyone tells you this, but i think you can rock the no hair, like no other. (well maybe not as well as steve, but i'm biased).

  2. Love how you look, with or without hair. It doesn't matter, you are still such a beautiful girl, with a beautiful soul. Sending love your way. Irene