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Hair, Another Kind of “Journey”

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.

Do you have a hair journey story?

Hair advice anyone??

I think I need some…

Image from Wikipedia

Weekly Round Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

Saturday 9th of April 2011

[...] speaking of hair, Chemobabe is sporting a gorgeous new cut and Nancy is also writing about hair in her blog this [...]

Jan Hasak

Wednesday 6th of April 2011

Nancy, thanks for addressing this problem endured by so many cancer patients. I did have someone shave my head, but only because my husband and youngest son also shaved their heads in support. They were so sweet; how could I refuse? But I know where you are coming from on the rebellious side. Telling the patient that the hair will grow back in reminds me of my surgeon saying that I was only losing a breast; it wasn't really important anyway. Not! I realize the breast will not grow in again as the hair will, but the cavalier attitude is what I despise. Like you, my hair did not come in nice and thick and curly: it came in white and thinner and straighter than before. Then once I got on Arimidex it thinned further. I've gotten used to my new-normal appearance (sort of), but always look with longing on people with thick hair. If only! Thanks for the great post! Jan


Thursday 7th of April 2011

Jan, Thank you for sharing your experience here. One of my sons shaved his head also and it was really sweet. Actually he has shaved it three times! That indicates how slow my hair has been growing back! And I agree, the cavalier attitude is hurtful.


Wednesday 6th of April 2011

I've lost my hair twice, through my two cancer treatments. Both times, my initial regrowth came in white or very light and then pigment seemed to come in after a bit of regrowth. I too have more grey than I'd hoped (colouring blinded me to how much grey I had before cancer) but I get compliments on the stylish silver strands all the time. Go figure.

The first time, my hair came in thicker and slightly wavier than before cancer. The stuff that wasn't silver came in very dark.

This time, it's quite curly (it's still pretty short) and not quite as grey. I have dark and light brown strands - so I'm tri-coloured. I'm still trying to figure out how to style it!

I was sad about the loss of the hair on my head, but not as traumatized as I thought I'd be. I hated losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. I LOVE losing my leg, armpit and bikini line hair.

Regardless of the experience, hair loss allows us all to grow and learn more about ourselves.

Good luck with the regrowth. Yes, it seems exceedingly slow at first. I'm also looking forward to some warmer weather, and quicker hair growth.


Wednesday 6th of April 2011

Tina, Thanks for sharing about your hair loss, Tina. It sounds like your new hair growth has done a good job of keeping you guessing as to what it might be like. I think curls would be quite nice, so I'm a bit envious.


Tuesday 5th of April 2011

hello from germany and another breast-cancer-amazone ;-)

there ist life after all this things... needs a little bit time, but there is.

here you can see my way and my ideas:

lot of greets from hamburg


Wednesday 6th of April 2011

Sue, Hello to you as well and thank you for commenting and for the greetings as well. I will check out your site.

Teri S.

Tuesday 5th of April 2011

I don't really have any hair advice, but I did get to see Hair, on Broadway in New York, and it was awesome. I had 'And let the sunshine in' stuck in my head for weeks after. Ace Young (from American Idol) was in it, and he kissed me on my head and cheeks like five or six times. And that's my hair journey. :)

LK Butcher

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

Back in the 80s I saw Hair hair performed live at a small theatre in Los Angeles, and Rain Pryor (Richard Pryor's daughter) was one of the actors in it.


Tuesday 5th of April 2011

Teri, So glad to read your comment, thanks for taking the time to share. I know what you mean about that song sticking... I like YOUR kind of hair journey, Teri!

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