The other day, I heard the oldies song “Hair” on the radio, and it reminded me of well, hair, and how a person’s hair represents another kind of journey. (Btw, though it works for some, I’m not a fan of referring to cancer as a journey.)
I vaguely remember (I was in elementary school) when the controversial Broadway show Hair came out as well as all the hoopla that followed. Hair raised a lot of eyebrows. It was so radical, almost scandalous at the time with its shocking depiction of drug use, nudity, sexuality and long hair.
I have never seen it, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be all that shocking by today’s standards. Hearing that song inspired this post, so…
I am happy to report my hair is returning.
It is returning slowly, at what I would call a reluctant snail’s pace, but still, it’s returning.
Bald heads exude sympathetic glances and I do mean glances, because no one dares to look too long. I mean, that would be too obvious. Bald heads scream cancer and chemotherapy (unless you’re a man). Bald heads generate thoughts of the unspoken and spoken kind; thoughts like, oh you poor thing.
Now, my hair screams “old.”
My hair is coming back gray. I know I used to color it, so it’s not like it wasn’t gray before, but now it’s almost all gray. Chemo stripped away all remaining color.
Why do some people get better hair when it comes back after chemotherapy? Why do some people get hair that is thicker or a totally new, even better color (and I don’t mean gray)? Why do some people get curls when they used to have straight hair? Or straight hair when it used to be curly? Why do some people get a new and improved version of their former hair? Why didn’t I?
And why does any of this matter anyway?
Of course, it doesn’t really matter, but…
Your hair doesn’t define you, but yet it does, or maybe we just let it. I can’t begin to count the number of times I heard or read during chemo, t’s only hair, it’ll grow back.
Trust me, those are not comforting words to hear. At least they weren’t for me.
Your hair represents a journey all its own.
When a new baby is born, after everyone learns the sex, weight, length, who it looks like and general health status, they generally next discuss its hair or lack thereof.
A year or two later, parents proudly take their toddler in for that all important first haircut, (of course, only if the child has grown enough hair!) perhaps even saving some of those precious locks.
During early childhood, most kids don’t care all that much about their hair, or at least I didn’t. My sisters and I all had really short hair, as did my brother, of course. My mother was way too busy to fiddle with styling the hair of three fidgety daughters, so we basically all looked the same. For a brief period in time, we could have passed as triplets.
I have always had ridiculously unmanageable colics. I looked like Dennis the Mennis, except his hair was blond and actually longer. And my colics were (are) all over my head not just at my forehead.
Upon entering junior high and then high school, things changed dramatically in the hair department.
Suddenly, you were no one unless you had long, preferably straight, hair. So, of course, like most girls I grew mine out. So did my sisters. Suddenly we were all transformed and had heads of hair that fell way past our shoulders. Most of my friends had long hair too. Everybody did it seemed. After all, it was the seventies!
And this fascination with long hair was not just for the girls, most boys also grew their hair out as well. I’m pretty sure there were many fights in households over the infrequency of haircuts.
The next dramatic turn in my hair journey came during the eighties. Suddenly, curls were in. My hair had no curl whatsoever; so therefore, perms were also in for gals like me. Looking at family photos from the eighties, always gives my sisters and me a hearty laugh. Ugh!
After surviving the perm era, the next leg of the journey for me anyway, was deciding what to do when those first grays made their appearance. Like usual, I waited a while and then finally went the “Nice and Easy” Clairol route saying goodbye to gray and old at the same time, or so I thought anyway.
Then along came cancer and chemotherapy.
My predictable little hair journey was suddenly sabotaged and taken in an unexpected direction to say the least.
Like most women I was terrified about losing my hair. For some reason losing your hair makes you feel exposed, literally, but in other ways as well.
During chemo, I decided not to shave my hair off like most women do, partially in defiance to a certain statement made by a certain chemo nurse. You can read about it if you so choose in an earlier post, Should A Chemo Patient Shave the Hair Off and If So When?
No, I did not shave it off, and as things turned out, it didn’t all fall out. I had a little bit that hung on and out from beneath my baseball cap perfectly. I felt a bit rebellious for successfully saving some (OK a smidgen) of my hair.
When chemo ended, Dear Hubby helped me shave off my last few strands of straggly hair. I still bawled my eyes out, even though those strands looked silly and had to go. They were still MINE.
It was still my hair and it was gone — another thing cancer took.
Hence, the bald era began (photos to come someday) and is now thankfully ending.
I’ve started “re-wearing” my own hair. I even go out now without my wig. I still wear my baseball cap most of the time though. I wouldn’t have to, but I do. Call me vain; I do not care.
I’m trying to become familiar with this new look on this “new person” I’ve become. I’m still not used to her. I don’t quite recognize her yet, and I’m not sure I like her very much. But…
Now, all I have to do is pick out a new hair color.