It’s Saturday morning. I love to sleep in, I mean I love it. But here I am staring at the ceiling long before the alarm would go off if it were a workday. In a few hours, we are going to go shave off what is left of my hair.
I am ready for this. I have prepared for it, I knew it was coming, I’ve talked through it with Sam and my mom, I have my wig ready. But still… I think it’s pretty normal for a woman to be a bit shaken by it. It’s a big deal.
Friday morning, however, was another story. A few larger loose handfuls were ready to be groomed out when I awoke. Still nothing visible when you looked at me, but enough that I called the Image Recovery Center so that I could make the appointment to come in and get the buzz cut and pick up my wig.
I had been counting on getting right in and getting it over with, having been told that hair loss was top priority and other appointments would be rescheduled to deal with hair loss when it started, but there was an important meeting and I ended up having to wait until Saturday. Waiting one day for anything normal wouldn’t be a big deal, but this… I had gotten myself psyched to do it, I was ready to get it done. I didn’t want to have to drag it out and think about it for 24 hours. I understood it wasn’t Becky’s fault, but it was just hard to deal with.
Friday morning, I did break down and cry. Yes, my hair will grow back, but the probability is very high that it will not look like it does now, and my hair is something I like about me. It’s something my husband loves and I feel really bad for him that he has to lose it. It’s been a highly identifying factor of who I am – I’m almost always referred to first as “the curly redhead” when people are describing me.
I also realized that up till now there has been very little tangible evidence of the cancer. Other than my port, which has a scar, and is raised and palpable under the skin of my chest, there’s nothing I see or feel that says I’m sick. I said to Sam as I cried, “Now every time I look in the mirror I am going to be reminded I have cancer. I can’t get away from it.” He held me and let me cry for a while ( he is so good at that), and a thought came to me. I sat up and said to him, “No. The cancer didn’t take my hair, the chemo did. This is proof it’s working. Every time I look in a mirror, I’m going to be reminded that we are fighting the cancer and we are winning.”
So later last night as the hair started coming out by handful after handful, I stood there in the bathroom filling the trash can with it and saying “Die cancer cells! Every hair cell dies, a cancer cell dies. We are going to beat this thing!” There is something very surreal about watching myself in a mirror pulling handfuls of my own hair out of my head as I say “Die, cancer cells, die!” in a crazy, angry, threatening voice. As each minute passed, I looked less and less like myself and felt more like I was in some kind of crazy movie.
I spent a very restless night. I wasn’t comfortable – tiny hairs kept falling out and tickling my neck and face. It felt like something was crawling on me. (I can see why they say to come in and get the buzz cut as soon as it starts to fall.) Friday was just such a frustrating day. No matter how much I tried to groom the loose hair out, whether with my hands, a brush, a towel, it didn’t matter. It just kept coming. And I just kept looking stranger. None of this contributed to relaxed, peaceful slumber.
When I got up this morning at the obnoxious hour of 6:30 on a Saturday, guess what happened? That’s right, more hair fell out. At this point, it’s everywhere in the house; on the floors, in the sink, all over the bed, in my bathrobe, in my clothes, even on my breakfast fiber bar. Yuck!
Finally it was time to go to the Image Recovery Center. I had anticipated being sad, but I was just impatient. I wanted it done and over with. In the car, Sam and I discussed again that this was our tangible proof that we were beating the cancer. I decided that the bald head, whether in a wig, scarf, cap or naked, was going to be my warrior suit. We are going to win.
Becky was as warm and welcoming as ever. She quickly got me into a beauty-shop chair and started the buzz cut. This is a very strange sensation, the vibration along my skull and the sudden previously never-felt coolness. When my head was about half done, she asked if I want a Mohawk. Heck, yeah! My daughter Courtney will LOVE it! So we did the Mohawk and took some pictures, then finished the GI Jane buzz. I had expected to cry, but instead we were laughing the entire time.
Becky took time to show me different types of sleep caps, scarves, fashion hats and so on, and to work with me on styling the wig, even trimming it to look more natural.
I have heard that for many women losing their hair is the hardest part of the battle with cancer. I know that I am very blessed in so many ways, and here is one more. This wonderful hospital where I get treatment just happens to have a place called the Image Recovery Center, and that place just happens to be run by Becky. And tonight, not only have I not cried all day, but I feel beautiful.
Aren’t two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground. Even the hairs on your head are counted.
So don’t be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31