Chronicle of a Stem Cell Transplant (and on through to the other side)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hair Farming

Well, since we are now in a holding pattern (I started "maintenance" chemo yesterday, a drug called Lomustine) until I can begin the SGN 35 trial, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about my hair. Fascinating, I know.

Its falling out, being bald, and re-growth have certainly been the least of my worries with this whole cancer gig, but I know for many it can be traumatic. I have heard from friends and family, too, who had never seen me with short hair in my 34 years, that seeing my hair grow back has been interesting in a Chia Pet kind of way.

Initially, losing my hair, especially because it was really long, felt quite icky; there just seemed to be so much of it because the strands were so long. As soon as this started happening, I cut off my ponytail and realized how much I liked having a bob (I wish I'd found this out a decade earlier). However, this didn't last long as my hair was still noticeably thinning, so my very nervous hairdresser chopped it all off without taking out an eye. A few days later, my husband gave me the final "Sinead" buzz cut with an electric razor.

My first look in the mirror was a tough one, not because of my hair being gone, but because I felt like my privacy regarding having what was considered to be a "dreaded" illness was now obvious and that this "evidence" would now enter a room before I did. However, once I was over the initial shock, I found being bald very empowering. There was no more long, blond hair to hide behind (not that I was aware that I was even hiding) and I felt pretty kick-ass, if I do say so myself. People know you mean business if you are a bald female, regardless of what they think the reason may be.

I have since come to regard a bald head, particularly on a woman, as utterly beautiful and natural. It enables us to see another's face, bright eyes and lines of expression with so much more clarity. When I see friends who are undergoing treatment that causes hair loss, I am overwhelmed by the inherent beauty of each of their faces and am often struck at the actual superfluousness of hair. When I didn't have any, I started to find it weird looking and unnecessary on people who did. Funny and wonderful how the mind adapts.

What was actually more difficult was when my hair started to grow back in an unfamiliar colour and texture. Having always had pin-straight, long blond hair, tight, curly brown hair was a bit of a shocker for me. It was hard to identify with and, as I had experienced so many changes, I really just wanted my old familiar hair back. I was told that the chemo curls were temporary and I gave them a good ten months before taking them to slaughter. They simply would not straighten-out or weigh-down, and in the words of one of my dear friends, I "looked like Ronald McDonald," just without the big red shoes.

So, off they went, nearly a year of hair growth falling to the stylist's floor, but low-and-behold, after that cut, my hair started to grow in much straighter and a bit lighter. Now it's almost in a bob; I'm just waiting for the remainder of the Cocker Spaniel ears to grow out. In the last few weeks, I've also been able to get it into a rather precarious pony tail with the help of half-a-dozen bobby pins.

In a nut shell, I'm happy to have hair, but will certainly not go to pieces if I have to lose it again (which doesn't seem to be the case for the foreseeable future). However, if I do, I will look forward to the unfettered beauty and confidence that I see, love and appreciate in the faces of my brave, currently-bald friends, regardless of my undeniably large frontal lobe.