When I sat across from my Oncologist back in March, do you know what she told me that upset me the most?
“Oh yeah. You’ll lose your hair. All of it.”
A large part of my physical identity has been my red hair. I love it. It has all different shades of blonde and reds, it’s thick and keeps its curl. Brig calls me “Rita Red”. Heck, we even bought a Kia Soul so that Brig could go around saying he bought his Ginger a Soul.
If I was going to go a year without my red hair, who would I be?
I cut my hair into a pixie cut shortly after that initial appointment with my Oncologist. I hated it. It represented the loss of my femininity to me. I did my best not to look in mirrors or spend too much time getting ready in the morning. Then I had my first chemo infusion, nothing happened. My hair was still there. I don’t know what I expected. I realized this isn’t going to happen the way I had in my head. I had gone weeks anticipating the moment I would walk away from chemotherapy and all of my hair would fall out like leaves in late autumn. I thought of how I would cry, scream, want to hide! But it didn’t happen peeps. I went home and I looked into the mirror that day, at my hair that I was so scared to lose, and yet had been so angry at. It was time to have a pep talk with my hairs.
Long or short, there or not,
You are only a piece of me.
A comfortable shield, an excuse
But there is more to me,
And you a just a thing.
And that is how I made peace with losing my hair. It’s just a thing. This last stanza became a mantra to me, and each day I got ready and put pomade in my hair, I felt a love for those red hairs instead of resentment.
My hair didn’t start falling out until after my 2nd infusion. It was the weirdest experience of my life. One day my hair was normal, though maybe more dull than usual, and the next day it was like the life had been sucked out of them. They felt like a field of stiff dry spaghetti on my scalp, breaking off at the slightest touch. It felt like pin pricks, or like I was trying to wear a wig of fiberglass.
Guys. It was WEIRD.
So, within a couple days, I had decided I had had enough. It was time for the thing to go.
Brig was my knight in shining armor that day. He held the shears and didn’t bat an eye at this strange experience we were having. I thought I would cry, that I would be angry again, or that I would feel shame. I didn’t feel any of those things. I felt relief and love. Love for my sweetie cutting off my hairs without judgment or fear, and relief that the time had finally come. The anticipation was over.
And now I don’t have any red hair on my head, and I’m totally cool with it. In fact, I like my small round head. I don’t want a wig, I don’t even want to cover it up when I am at home or go out. I like the freedom and this wild feeling of owning this year of alopecia. I’ll get my hair back someday; not everyone is as lucky.
This whole thing taught me something important. Anticipated experiences are not going to be what you think they are going to be. In fact, the story you build in your head about something you haven’t experienced yet is total bullshit. When you actually are going through the hard thing, you realize, God is good. Life is awesome. You can handle SO much more than you think you can. And the best thing of all, you have total control over your story- and it can be a tragedy or it can be something else.
Like a love story.
This is what happened when I tugged on my hair- look at how much would break off! Washing it clogged my shower drain.
I tugged a couple times.
All that was left.