When I was a child, I hated my hair. It was very fine and straight, and my mother insisted on cutting short so that it looked like a pudding bowl had been placed over my head. How I envied the other girls with their long hair, their braids, and pigtails. Most of all, I was jealous of those girls with curly hair. I looked like a boy when I wanted to look like a pretty little girl. It is no wonder that I have kept very few photos of my childhood.
When I left home and went to college, it was the beginning of my love affair with my hair. I grew it down to my shoulders, and I conducting countless hair experiments. It was colored, cut and curled in a myriad of ways. And I got to feel like a beautiful woman. My hair was my crowning glory.
In January 2014 I walked into Mass General Hospital for a breast biopsy. The first doctor I met with was the head of surgery. Before I even had the biopsy, he announced that I was a chemotherapy candidate. He could tell from the size of my tumor on my XRays. My first reaction was to wail.
“I will lose my hair!” My crowning glory would be gone, and there was no rationally convincing me that it would grow back in time. Suppose it didn’t grow back? I had heard that in rare cases that could happen. It was only later that I realized that not only would I lose my hair, but I could also lose my life.
Within 3 weeks of starting chemo, my hair began to fall out in clumps. Each morning my pillow was covered in hair, with every shampoo my hair was coming out in handfuls. There was no stopping it, I was losing my lovely hair.
Then one late afternoon which I will never forget, my hairdresser announced that it was time to take off the rest of what was left of my hair. The salon closed the window shades and everyone gathered around to hold my hand. I turned away from the mirror while the fateful deed was being executed, but I could see the tears in everyone’s eyes.
When my chair was swiveled around and I faced the mirror, I let out a horrified gasp. Staring at me was a bald, ugly old woman, who had the green/white palor that people have when they are being slowly poisoned by chemo. Tears rolled down my face. However, being the warrior that I am, I had already bought a wig which my hairdresser had styled for me. She gently put it on my head. I gave a sigh of relief, at least there was a reminder of the woman that I remembered.
I wore wigs for 18 months, even at home alone. A pathetic old woman stared at me in the mirror. I was fighting for my life. My hair did not grow back quickly but by early 2015 some sprouts were occurring. But then a miracle occurred! My hair grew back fast, thick and it was curly! All my life I had wanted curly hair! And now I had curls in abundance and my crowning glory was BACK!
However, I leave you all with one parting thought. Having survived cancer, which has left me with an imperfect body, I have learned among other things, that a beautiful person is far more than any one body part, hair included. Love the people in your life for who they are on the inside. That is their true beauty.