Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Hairy Tale

So here it is. I absolutely, unequivocally do not want to lose my hair. (photo on left from 2005)

Call it my one vanity.

I am not one to wear much adornment. I have little jewelry in my possession. In fact, I was 40 before finally getting my ears pierced, and in the two years since then have found wearing earrings somewhat of a nuisance, dealing with ongoing infections in my left ear lobe.

Nor am I one to wear much make-up. I prefer the natural look, wearing a bit of foundation and some powder. Also a bit of eyeliner. Never wear lipstick, excepting the rarest of occasions.

And then there's my hair. Long, thick and straight. It's become somewhat wavy over the years, and that is noticeable when I let it air-dry.

I love my hair.

Some history. One of my earliest memories of childhood. I don't even know how old I was, possibly first or second grade. My family was eating out in a restaurant. The waiter came to the table and asked my parents "What would HE like." I was mortified at being mistaken for a boy. Indignant at the comparison. How could he not know I was a girl? I reasoned it was because my hair was too short. So I let it grow.

Except for a few years in high school, when stuffing hair under a marching band hat was a nuisance, I have kept my hair long. In college, I really let it go, and by my mid 20's my hair was past waist length. I cut it perhaps twice a year, each time taking off about 6 inches each time, yet even that was barely noticeable. When I graduated from seminary, I had to wear my hair in a long braid down my back because it was covering the red master's degree hood I had worked so hard to earn.

The past few years I have worn it shorter. A little below shoulder length, but still long.

And now I face chemotherapy. My hair will not be short. It will be gone altogether. Compared to my childhood self, I am not so worried about being labeled a boy. (though I will hold the label of "cancer patient") Well-meaning people say things like "it will grow back" - "it's worth it in the long run" - "what is hair compared to saving your life" - "you can wear a wig" - or I love this one "you might be one of the rare few who doesn't lose their hair." Maybe...but not counting on THAT. Please don't give me that one. Those odds just don't interest me.

Folks, let me just put it out there, I am not stupid. I know these things. And unless you've gone through it yourself, don't even try to understand. And even if you HAVE gone through it, for goodness sake, don't be patronizing. Empathy, yes. Patronizing, no.

Don't try to offer rationalizations. Don't try to offer fixes or substitutes. These things are not helpful when I am feeling very strong emotions. I may ask for suggestions about what I could do. THEN, you can offer your suggestions. Otherwise just say "I'm sorry."

My hair is one of my most recognizable features. I love my hair. It is an integral part of my identity. A year after my mom finished her treatment, her hair is still extremely short. Maybe I will look fine in short hair...but let's get through the 24 weeks of baldness first.

24 weeks. 168 days of looking in the mirror. (numbers are obviously approximate here) Being reminded each and every day that cancer cells have invaded your body. Never mind the other side effects...

I am pissed. So very pissed. And not just about the hair. But everything. I didn't ask to have cancer. Nobody does.

Cancer sucks. It really, really sucks.


Martha Williams Jordan said...

Yup cancer sucks. I know there are no words that will help. But a thought, what if you cut your hair and donated it to locks of love. When I was pregnant with the girls, the idea of going to get my hair cut and smelling the chemicals just made me sick without even walking in the door. Each pregnancy I grew my hair out and then after 9 months cut it and donated it.

EMMA said...

I love your hair too!

Orient said...

I love your no B.S.ness. I hate that you are going through this.