Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Cancer isn’t for wimps. We have to endure shots, blood tests, pills, nausea, body aches, and many more discomforts. Along with the physical discomforts there are also emotional pains of facing cancer. The most emotional aspect of my cancer journey was my hair loss. It was emotional not because of my outward appearance, but rather the hair loss was a very visual reminder of my sickness. My hair loss brought home the reality that I do indeed have cancer.

In order to brace myself for my hair loss, I made sure that I had a wig ready for when I needed it. My fashion conscious daughters, Heidi age 16 and Steph age 13 helped me choose a wig that matched my hair color and style. They also had fun imagining their mom with long flowing locks of blond hair, or a curly, red, Shirley Temple style. We made jokes about hair to lighten the mood for that fateful day. Heidi said one evening “I heard that the longer that people are married, the more they start to look like each other” I’ve been married to my loving but bald husband for almost twenty years. Soon we looked like two bookends when we sat on the sofa together.

The day I was dreading, despite the joking around, finally came. Just two weeks after my first chemo treatment, my hair fell out in clumps and my scalp hurt like a bad sunburn. I decided to get a “G.I. Jean” buzz cut to relieve the pressure on my head and to eliminate the mess in the shower. I shed a few tears as I saw my dark brown hair falling to the floor. But I felt a sense of relief. I also felt a wave of reality sweep over me as I realized that I really do have cancer. In the early days of diagnosis, it took a while for the truth to set in. With the onset of hair loss, there was no denying it.

When my daughters saw my new haircut they reacted in very different ways. Heidi, was very quick to share the scientific reasons why my hair was falling out. “The chemo kills off cells that reproduce like digestive cells, hair cells and thankfully cancer cells.” Steph on the other hand, shed a few tears and wished I could just skip the hair loss part of chemo. She even snuck into my bathroom, and dug out some of my hair from the wastebasket, put it in a baggie and saved it so that she could always remember what my hair used to look like. Despite the emotions, the joking still goes on and I just join in the fun. After receiving the last cup of coffee in the pot I stated “This coffee is so strong it could grow hair on my chest. Oh, wait a minute. It can’t!”

Just as we are all unique, we will react differently to our treatments and our treatments will react differently toward us. Keeping a positive attitude can go a long way toward easing the pain. I have found that humor can be found in even the most emotional aspects of treatment. A good laugh can lift the spirits and heal the soul. No matter what cancer throws my way, I have to battle it with everything I’ve got, including my sense of humor. After all my hair loss is only temporary, but my life is forever.