The weather may be crummy, but it’s not going to bring me down this Tuesday. Chemo number nine did not treat me well. In fact, I felt so badly that in the short time my head wasn’t in the toilet, I booked myself a trip to Florida. Though it’s two months away, it gives me something to look forward to. It’s planned so that by then I will hopefully be done with chemo, and hopefully have heard that my roommate from hell has moved out. It will, again, hopefully, be the first of many celebrations.
I’m feeling better now though, so whatever, all good, no need to go back in time and relive the nausea nightmare that was last week. So let’s talk about my week thus far. Yesterday was just like any other Monday: I worked out, went to Target, shaved my head, watched The Bachelor (I’m kinda team Corinne now?? Or maybe just anti everyone else). You know, all normal things.
LOL jk, shaving my head is not normal. Hair is literally everywhere in my house. It covers my clothes, my sheets, I find it in cabinets. It’s disgusting. You would look at our clothes and think we had a dog (I wish we did. Dog hair is SO less gross than human hair). Plus, I actually looked like Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The top of my head was pretty much bald, I just had weird angel hair pasta left on the sides of my head. So, it was time to go.
Sitting in the bathroom, razor in my mom’s hand, I was ready. When I first started losing my hair, I cried a lot. I feared becoming bald. I feared it because it was change. I feared it because being bald is not always associated with beauty. And I know that’s shallow, but it’s true. I think at a certain point I stopped fearing it because I knew it was going to happen sooner or later.
When my mom was done, I didn’t hesitate looking at the mirror to see the finished product. I wasn’t scared of what I was going to see. My hair was so thin that I had a pretty good idea of what my scalp looked like already. And honestly, it wasn’t that bad. My mom, and one of my friends, both pointed out that I have a perfect shaped head to pull off the bald look. I guess that is something I can add to the list of things I have learned during this time. The only thing I was upset about was that my mom wouldn’t shave her head with me. But then I was like, just kidding I do not want anyone else to go through this. I pretty much waited for there to be no more hair on my head, I’m glad I did. I think it made the whole process a lot less traumatic.
I feel like I’m always talking about hair, but hair loss is hard. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in the last couple of months. That sounds so stupid, but you don’t really think about these things until you have to go through it. I’ve always been a person who doesn’t let anything get in the way of what I want to do. I usually don’t care about appearance (and trust me, there are times when I probably would’ve looked better bald than how I wore my hair). But, I have let my hair (or lack there of) control me. I have been practicing yoga from the safety of my home where I don’t have to worry if my wig or a scarf is going to fall off during the next downward dog. I don’t avoid going because I fear that people are going to judge my appearance. I avoid it more because I know what I would’ve said to myself if I saw a bald woman walk into my yoga class.
A quick glance because I don’t want to get caught staring, and then I’d think: “She must have cancer. She’s sick.”
And to me, that is worse than being called ugly. Or someone thinking that I have a bad hair do.
I am not “sick.” I was sick back in August when I was diagnosed. I was sick when I had a lump on my neck, in my armpit, tumors throughout my chest cavity and my spleen. I was sick when I started chemo. And aside from the days after chemo, I do not feel sick. But those days of not feeling well are not caused by the cancer, they are caused by the drugs that are helping me beat it. I am recovering. I am fighting. And unfortunately, hair loss is a side effect.
I am guilty of associating baldness with sickness. Even as someone with cancer, I have done it. And that was my biggest fear of all about hair loss. At first, no one could tell I had cancer just by looking at me. People at the hospital would say they never knew if I’m a patient or a visitor. Which is nice, but then I’m like “why do people have this image of cancer patients as being bed-ridden and sickly and bald?” Prob the media. Ugh. I don’t like being pitied and I don’t like people feeling sorry for me, and I feel like walking around with a bald head puts a target on your back.
But as I started to lose my hair, and saw pictures of other women sporting their bald heads loud and proud, I stopped thinking that bald is bad. Bald is courage. Bald is strength. Overwhelming strength. Bald is beautiful.
When I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t think “sick.” I think strong. I think smart. I think funny (obviously). My mom thinks I’m beautiful, and she tells me when I don’t look good, so I know she’s not just being a mom and saying it because she has to.
But those thoughts are how I thought about myself before I shaved my head. I am still me. Just with a different hairstyle.
Now, I’m not planning on walking around with a bald head all the time. If you do, power to ya girlfriend!! But, the bald headed life is actually pretty drafty to me, so I’ll be wearing beanies and head scarves, and yes, that stupid wig, until the hair starts growing back.
Shaving my head was kind of liberating. I don’t think I am going to let my hair stop me from doing the things I want to do anymore. I feel empowered. But let’s (this includes me) stop stigmatizing bald heads, so that the next gal with thinning hair can go to yoga in peace. Namaste 🙏🏻.