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On being (involuntarily) bald

June 4, 2018

Last week, I wrote that my hair was starting to fall out. I debated cutting it off Thursday, but wasn’t sure where or how to do it. I know some cancer patients smooth shave their own heads, but since I’d never done it before, I was nervous to try. I had also been told that it was dangerous to use a razor in case you got nicked and it got infected.

On Thursday, I bought a beautiful sun hat. I got it mostly to keep the sun off my head and shoulders, but also because it was beautiful. I was also shopping for a fedora style hat since I’d borrowed one last weekend and Jonathan said it looked nice. I told him I’ve always avoided hats because I feel like they make me look like I’m a cancer patient. He said, well you are a cancer patient. I know, but that doesn’t mean I want to look like one. I’m realizing that I need to learn to view hats as accessories instead of a just a way of covering my head.

By Friday morning, I felt like it was too patchy and messy to leave it as is. I was also starting to feel the emotions of losing my hair. I find that it takes me a couple days to really respond to hard news, and Friday was right on schedule. I felt constantly on the verge of tears. My energy was also waning as the week went on and I’m sure that had an impact on my emotions.

That morning, some friends came over to help pack for our trip to California. With them watching the kids, Jonathan and I went to find someone to cut my hair. We decided to go to the local barbershop, which I’ve been to before. Since I was feeling really vulnerable, he went in ahead of me to explain the situation and ask if they would do it. I ended up in the chair of a nice man who suggested just taking it down to a 5 o’clock shadow length, but it was long enough where it still came out when I touched it, so he cut it all off. I cried a little bit, but no one minded. They were all very complimentary toward me.

When we got home, our friend’s son immediately said he liked my hair cut, but one of the girls said I looked funny. I can’t remember all their exact responses, but they weren’t fans. One of them said they thought people at church would laugh at me. I told her that no one was going to laugh at me because they know why my hair is gone, but that I know it looks different and kind of weird.

I felt really tired and struggled some throughout the weekend. I ended up missing a concert with my dear friend on Saturday night because I was too tired, and knew we’d be up at 5am to go to the airport. I was advised to wear a face mask when traveling, so I did. Elin hated it and kept asking me to take it off. I found a fedora to wear, but wearing it combined with the face mask, made me feel like I was wearing a sign that said “I have cancer”.

Our trip to California was uneventful. Everyone was kind. The girls did well on the flight. I felt really self conscious though. I continued to struggle with how I looked and the fact that 1/4 inch less hair so dramatically changed how I was perceived. I felt like it was suddenly obviously that I was a cancer patient. I also suspected that people were viewing me with pity – that mom has three little girls and has cancer. None of this could be true, but it’s how I felt.

Over the last week, though, I’ve thought more about this shift and am wondering if the change is more dramatic to me than to anyone else. As long as I’ve had my hair short, people have questioned whether I’m in treatment. The other day at the park, a lady said something to the effect of liking the way I wore my hair, and an old man said I had a nice head. I didn’t get the feeling they were commenting based on me having chemo hair.

Whether my hair is as shocking to others as it is to me or not, it’s still been a hard adjustment. It is yet another reminder that I do in fact have cancer. That my cancer is bad enough that I’m having to do chemo. When you go around looking and feeling almost normal, it’s easy to forget, but my shiny, bald head is now a constant reminder. And though I don’t think I look terrible, I don’t like how it looks. It’s not my choice, and that is also hard. It definitely gives me more sympathy for people who experience physical changes beyond their control (like hair loss).

Prior to cutting it, my sister suggested that I anoint my head with oil after the cut. She was referencing the Psalm where it says the Lord will anoint my head with oil in the presence of my enemies. She said this symbolizes me trusting God to heal me through chemo, wisdom and good doctors. It ties in with the prayer my friend sent me asking God to bless the means (chemo) made use of for my healing. Can I view my bald head as a reminder to ask God to bless the work of the chemo?

It’s been over a week since my hair was cut, and my scalp looks almost the same. There’s a tiny bit of fuzz growing, but it’s like all the hair on me has just stopped growing. Thankfully, the rest of my body hair has followed suit. It’s only fair, right? I’d be mad if I had no hair on my head but still had to shave my legs every day.

In other chemo news, last Sunday and Monday I felt really achy. On Sunday I thought it was because of something I’d done on Saturday, but by Monday, my legs and hips were aching really bad. I realized that the previous Monday after treatment, I moved a small desk and ended up in so much pain that I had to take medicine to sleep. I’d been told I would feel achy after I take the medicine to rebuild my white blood cells, but the timing was off. I can’t say for sure that’s what it is, but one week after treatment is supposed to be when your white blood cells are lowest, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a connection. (I know some of this may seem like random information, but I often write with a future cancer patient reader in mind.)

We have been in California for the past week and in Tahoe since Saturday. Here we met up with friends and family including my little brother from San Diego. It’s been a wonderful trip and I’m so thankful to have an extra week to feel normal before I have my next treatment.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Hilary Galt permalink
    June 4, 2018 14:22

    Grace I think you look amazing! Seriously, I like it better than the really short hair on you! I read every update and continue to surround you and love and light, my friend.

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