Miracles and Wonders
Let's talk hair
When I was diagnosed with cancer, the first words out of my doctor’s mouth was I
going to need chemotherapy,  and the second words out of my nurse’s mouth were
you’re going to lose your hair.  I guess they were just trying to preparing me,  but who
doesn't know that?  I had seen plenty of cancer movies on the TV so I knew that going
bald was inevitable.  And at that time losing my hair was the least of my worries.  
What's a little hair loss when compared with everything else that was coming?  

Of course as it all happened, it was hard to take.  Really hard.  Even though I knew
what to expect, it’s still another thing all together to accept it.  I cried the morning that
it started to happen.  Running my hand through my hair, I could pull out handful after
handful of strands. So I buzz cut my beautiful shoulder length hair.  I rationalized that it
would be simpler and easier than having to vacuum up all my hair from the furniture
and floors, but truthfully, I was just trying to take back some control.  But who was
this person with a military buzz cut in the mirror?  I didn't recognize her.

I was prepared though. I had purchased a wig as soon as I got my diagnosis so that I
wouldn't have to deal with it after the chemo started.  I chose one that was close to my
own hair color and style but a bit shorter so that it would be easy to take care of.  The
woman who sold me the wig was an angel for being so nice and supportive.  I guess
she could sense my anxiety.  I had a hard time that day too, but the time to wear the
wig hadn't come yet, so I could still just put the wig aside and not think about it.  I
suppose in the back of my mind I secretly wished that maybe I wouldn't need it after
all.  Matter of fact, I now know several other chemo patients who haven’t lost their
hair.  I guess it all depends on the type of chemo.  Lucky me, I had the hair loss kind.

So I wore a wig.  It took weeks to become accustomed to it, and even then I still felt
like I was wearing this weird wool hat.  Around the house I was okay with going au
naturale with my stubbly head, but I never was brave enough to go that way in public.  
If I went out, I had to wear my wig or at least a large hat. But I always felt like I was in
disguise ---painting on eyebrows, using eye shadow to make it look like I still had some
eyelashes, and hiding under a wig ---all of this to give the illusion that I was a normal
healthy person.  I believe I pulled off this masquerade too.  Occasionally I would have
to admit to someone that I was going through chemo and I could see the look of
surprise in their face.  They couldn't believe that it wasn’t my own hair.  I suppose in
hind sight that it was a good idea to go as close as possible to my own color and style.  
When I returned to work and wore my wig, everyone who didn't know about my
cancer, thought I had just cut my hair.  It was both a happy and sad moment when
someone would comment about liking my new haircut.  Still it took me weeks to get
used to seeing myself in the mirror wearing the wig just the same as with my bald
head.  When I would catch a glimpse on my reflection, I didn't know that woman.  I
rationalized that it was just part of what I had to go through ---part of the process of
going through cancer.  

I finished with my chemo treatments and thankfully it worked.  I was cancer free but
also pretty much hair free too.  I never went completely shiny bald.  My stubborn grey
hair was also too stubborn to fall out.  Too bad that it was only the greys.  Once the
chemo treatments stopped, my hair started to grow out again.  My head was this
strange mix of short dark hair and slightly longer grey hair.  Too strange to go out in
public like this, so I continued to wear the wig.  My wig became like an old familiar
hat.  I even jokingly named it “Fluffy” like a cat.  I wore my wig a lot once I was out
and about all the time trying to make up for lost time while I was cooped up in my
house.  I remember wearing the wig while attending my sister’s graduation and hiking
during a vacation to New Mexico and even on a special balloon ride for my anniversary
(Fluffy got a bit singed from the heat of the burners).  Everywhere I went, Fluffy
went.    

I had thought I would wear the wig until my own hair got as long as the wig.  My plan
was that I would have my own hair dyed and styled like the wig so that one day, I
would simply not wear the wig and nobody would notice.   But it got to the point that I
was not only done with my treatments, but also done with this whole disguise thing
too.  I had planned a 2 week vacation at Christmas time and thought it would be funny
to come back to work without the wig and say that my “new hairdo” was a new year’s
resolution.  But I was tired of the whole charade.  Early in December, 8 ½ months after
finishing treatments, I simply didn't wear my wig one day.  Yes, my real hair was short
and uneven and a lot more grey than I remember, but I didn't care.  I was free. I could
feel the breeze on my scalp and it was so refreshing not to be fake any more.  I was
finally me again!

My hair saga continues still ---now with color and style.  My hair started growing at the
back first and slowly moved up to the front of my head. So now that it has all grown
in, it's different lengths all over with the shortest hair in the front  This was hard on me
also.  I had always worn bangs my entire life.  I didn't even know what my forehead
looked like, and yet, my bangs were going to be the last part to grow in.  As for color, I
didn't do anything for the first couple of weeks.  Grey hair and all, it was nice not to
mess with the wig.  But then I decided to take the next plunge and start to color my hair
again (I have been coloring my hair for about 20 years because I started going grey
very early).  I didn't realize though that coloring so much grey hair all at once would be
different than the usual touch up I had become accustomed to before my cancer.  I
laugh when I recall how my first attempt to get back my medium brown color resulted
in a coppery tone to the grey.  It took 2 more tries with successively darker shades to
get back to my usual rich brown color.  

As for the styling, I’m still working on that too.  Again my plan is not to cut anything
until I have enough hair to cut it the way I want it.  Amazingly the initial unevenness of
my hair growing out has becomes waves and curl.  It almost looks like I might have
had it styled this way.   I’ve been told how nice my “pixie” haircut is and how great my
hair looks.  It could be just polite remarks to encourage me, but I try to believe it even
though I still hate my short hair.  I’m still coming to terms with the “woman in the
mirror” being me.  But the other day when I was in a dressing room, I stopped and
took a good honest look and thought my hair really does look kind of nice and this is the
real me, short hair and all.