The question of hair

Okay, let’s talk about hair, specifically losing one’s hair with chemotherapy.

I had a stem cell transplant in 2000 and in preparation for losing my hair I cut off my long, long locks ahead of time – thinking I would get my mourning over with before I began the chemo.   It was fairly traumatic the first time although I did come to enjoy just going to the barber’s for a buzz and the low maintenance of buzzed hair. One of the encouraging things that happened was that my son, a baby at the time, did not even notice when I came home with a buzz cut.

But getting my hair cut wasn’t  the same as losing my hair. Losing one’s hair is just the pits  – no getting around it. While some women look completely excellent bald, I was not one of them – wrong head shape. My husband took great delight in doing the final shave, but I was quite discouraged. So then there was the question of what to wear on my head.

The choices were not appealing. A wig was out – I guessed it would be hot and itchy and everyone would know it was a wig. The little kerchiefs offered at the clinic just screamed cancer patient. I went through my scarves at home and found a beautiful light scarf of green and yellow hues that tied quite nicely with a turban-like effect. It became my uniform. All of the pictures of me from that time, gaunt and pale, were at least brightened by this colourful scarf.   I also had a beautiful velvet hat that I confess came from Disneyland. My husband was from California and his first summer job was working at Disnelyand. The first time I went there we made a pilgrimage to the magic kingdom and this beautfiul hat was my keepsake. I wore the hat to a special event, it being velvet and all, until some smart aleck decided to lift it up to see what was underneath. I put the hat away then. The scarf was safer.

A friend of mine gave me a turban of gold lame. It was a stunner and required a very certain type of event to carry it off. Actually the wearing of it was an event all in itself. I believe I wore it once. I ended up giving it back to this dear friend when she herself later lost her hair to chemo.

So much of our vanity is tied up in our hair. I tried to pretend I was like the beautiful woman who disfigured herself, so that she could work at reaching enlightenment without distraction, but it was tough. At that time I didn’t want enlightenment, I just wanted hair. I didn’t want to look like a sick person.

Fortunately my hair grew back and came back curly. I had always wanted curly hair, so there was some consolation in the final outcome.  I see many women at the chemo unit bedecked in some kind of headgear and I truly see them as being so beautiful and brave.  Their lack of hair symbolizes the hard path they are currently on and I have some empathy for what they are going through. My favorites are the women that are bald and proud.  Some  of them look so good bald I almost want to tell them to keep shaving their heads. .

Most men that I see don’t seem to feel the need to cover their bald heads, except when it is cold. Their path is no less challenging than for the women I’m guessing, except that they don’t seem to need to hide under a head covering.

What are your stories?


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