Why haven’t I been writing? I’ve been busy, getting back into knitting. Re-learning how to make hats. The weather’s getting colder, and my hair’s been falling out. It wasn’t a question of if I would shave, but when I’d give in and do it.
My hair started thinning in August. I had my last chemo cycle more than a month ago. I’m not nauseous anymore; the main uncomfortable symptom now is hot flashes. (I haven’t had a period since July. Chemo kick-started me twice, then stopped it. So now I’ll get to go through menopause twice.) Now that I’m feeling better, and don’t need the sympathy I never got when I was in active treatment, felt like hell and looked great, my hair’s been literally washing off my head in the shower. I barely need to touch it, and it comes off all over my hands. I’ve been leaving it in tufts all over the house.
I shaved for the sake of the plumbing, as much as for my own sanity. I feel sort of silly, because I’m done with treatment unless and until the tumors start growing again. But especially in the past two weeks, I’ve been noticeably balder by the day. I finally gave in, gave up, and did something about it.
A friend in SoCal knitted me some hats; they arrived two days ago. I’m wearing one now.
I looked at myself in the mirror this afternoon, thought, “You can’t even pretend anymore,” got my shoes, keys and jacket, and went to the hair salon. It’s a ten-minute drive. I second-guessed myself the whole way there. Did I really want to do this? Yes. Was I ready now? What about one more day? Or after church on Sunday? I like having hair. I have a friend who likes to play with it. I don’t want her to stop. I like what’s left of the cut I had. I don’t want to have to hide my head. Everything grows, just do it. You’ll feel so much freer. You won’t have to think about your hair anymore.
The decision to do it was instant, and liberating. I was more emotional than I thought I’d be, on the way to the hair salon. I wanted this—but I was beginning to grieve it anyway.
I got there, shut myself down, got out of the car, and went inside. The stylist was one I’d had before; she knew I’d been in chemo. She asked if I wanted it cut shorter instead of all gone. I asked, “What could you do?” She described something to me. I thought, I’ll look like an old man anyway. And I told her to take it off.
My towel and pillowcase are in the wash right now, getting rid of the last vestiges of hair nests I’ve left everywhere.
Oddly? I feel a whole lot more feminine with ¼” hair, and this purple turban on my head, than I ever have. And I’m no less comfortable in my skin. I have to say, I really like it. I like the way this feeling fits me.
I don’t know what’s in front of me, on the cancer road. I could be healthy until something else kills me. The tumors could grow again in months, years, or decades. There could be advances in treatment before I need it again. I could lose my hair again, or I could lose my life. The iconic image of cancer is baldness. This is now an experience I’ve had. If people look at me quizzically, or react in fear to me, I can choose how to speak to them. I can go through the social experience with someone else in treatment, later down the line. I will have been here. I will know.
Yeah, I’ll trade my hair for that.