I saw a post today on one of the breast cancer sites I joined, about a woman who has recently just started chemo. To help her children accept her chemo hair loss, she had decided to let her young girls cut her hair first so they could be part of the process and not be shocked to see her when she became bald. Such a beautiful idea. She posted a few pictures of the moment. As I clicked through them, I could see her smile start to fade, even though she was still “smiling”. Talk about all the feels. My heart hurt for her. I could still remember exactly how that moment of losing your hair felt.
I had been losing my hair for about a week before the day I shaved it off. It didn’t fall out in clumps, but when I would run my fingers through my hair, I would end up with a handful. I had thick hair, so I had lost a lot but it wasn’t totally noticeable. I had decided it was time when my daughter and I had gone to a grocery store one windy day. As we left, she was walking behind me and apparently my hair was blowing off my head into the air, very noticeably. So thankful we were able to find humour in this moment, as I apologized to the people walking behind us. I got home, and phoned my hairstylist.
I was able to go in that evening just after closing, with 2 friends and wine hidden in our travel mugs. I was still feeling okay with it. Losing my hair, even though I absolutely loved everything about my hair, was not the worst thing to have happened to someone. It grows back. I’ll be okay…..only I wasn’t. When the clippers came out, reality set in. That is a moment I will never forget. The tears started to flow, the physical pain I felt in my stomach. Cancer just got real.
I brought the wig I had just bought so it could be styled and cut while on my head. I do have to admit, it was pretty much exactly like my real hair, same colour, same style. But it looked so perfectly in place. I always said that I felt like I had to wear fancy shoes while wearing it. My friends wanted to take me out for dinner after this traumatizing ordeal, So off I went in my new wig. I remember I couldn’t stop fidgeting with it the whole time. I was uncomfortable, and for some reason felt nervous being out. Everything felt surreal…like I was outside looking in.
Once I had gotten home, I couldn’t take off the wig. I cried… a lot. I waited. But no part of me had the courage to face reality. That was one of my dark days of cancer. It’s not “just hair”, it doesn’t just “grow back”. I lost much more than just my hair. I lost my femininity, I lost my identity, I lost my confidence, I lost my control. It was a realization of the battle I was going through and would continue to fight for the rest of my life. I remember standing in front of a mirror, after all the stubble had fallen out. I had seen so many cancer posters of patients with chemo hair loss, but never did I think that would be my own reflection staring back at me. I had become what we see on all the posters.
I did learn from losing my hair. My hair doesn’t define who I am. I learned how to rebuild my self confidence. Beauty isn’t only on the surface. I’m more proud of the beauty I have inside me. Being a kind, thoughtful, strong, courageous woman, is far more beautiful than hair.