I’m shedding

It’s happening.

Bye, hair. :(

I was sitting at my favorite coffee shop, drinking an iced latte and reading a great book my friend Forrest sent me, when I felt an itch on the back of my scalp and reached back to satisfy it. When I pulled my hand away, at least 50 short brown hairs came with it. They fluttered down over my shoulders and down my cardigan like so much confetti.

“Oh, shit,” I said aloud, causing a couple of other patrons to turn my direction.

I couldn’t help myself: I reached back and pulled out another handful. And another. It was coming in huge clumps. I’ve brushed long-haired cats that shed less than this. No matter where I tugged, I could painlessly pull out massive tufts of hair and hold them in my palm, staring down at the fearsome chemotherapy side effect I’ve dreaded since my diagnosis. There it was, my feminine comfort blanket, the hair I’ve spent so many hours blow-drying, curling, coloring, forcing into updos I found on Pinterest that never turned out like the pictures. Just laying on the floor of a coffee shop. I’m sorry, Zeli’s. I know your janitorial staff is going to be baffled by this tonight.

I immediately texted Katie Bo to let her know that It Was Happening.

Me: I feel sorry for the next person who sits in this chair. It looks like I invited my personal hair stylist in here to give me a trim while I sipped on this coffee.

KB: Don’t worry, it’ll probably be a hippy. Hippies are cool with hair.

Me: What do I do? Should I shave it? Help. HELP.

KB: The scab theory. Go home, watch some TV and pull on it compulsively. Or stay there and hand it to passersby.

Me: Maybe they’ll just assume I have a very sheddy invisible dog.

KB: Go up to the cashier and ask for a bowl of water for him.

KB: Go up to the counter and be like, “Excuse me, do you mind if I have a bowl of water for my dog Bertrando? He’s getting parched in the California heat and he’s starting to molt.”

Me: Then I’ll pull out a tuft of my hair and hand it to him as payment.

KB: “You operate on the barter system, right? I trust these strands will be enough.”

KB: Then start singing Les Miz.

Me: Honestly I don’t see a flaw in this plan.

Reeling from the realization that I was actually going to lose my hair (denial is a powerful emotion), I wandered across the street and into a TJ Maxx to see if I could find any cheap skullcaps to cover up my brand-new deformity. Unfortunately, this being winterless California, they had nothing but trendy fedoras and big, Kentucky Derby wide-brimmed sunhats. C’mon, guys! Some of us still need knit beanies even in the off-season. I am not Bruno Mars, so a fedora was out of the question, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t entertain the possibility of sporting nothing but genteel, floppy Southern hats throughout this whole ordeal, going everywhere in a dress, speaking like Paula Deen and carrying a mint julep everywhere I go. But alas. All I really wanted was a cozy cap.

Truth be told, my hair and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. When I was about 14, the whole thing exploded into a thick mass of curls so extreme, I was once featured in a before-and-after ad for the hair salon I went to. A hairdresser who blow-dried my locks straight said to me, sweat dripping down her face, “I don’t want to see you again until your wedding!” I hated my curls, and it took me years to figure out how to style them in a way that didn’t look like I’d dropped a toaster in the bath.

Whatever unknown forces caused my ‘fro, they calmed down when I was about 18. My hair settled into manageable waves that I started dying blonder and blonder until one day I looked in the mirror and realized I’d somehow gone Gwen Stefani platinum. I felt unique and sexy that way, so kept it blonde through most of college, before dying it back to brown just before graduation. And that’s how it stayed for the last few years – long, brown, often curled, sometimes straight, but always there for me, ready for a quick twirl to alleviate boredom or an alluring toss to attract the attention of some cute guy.

We may have had our differences, hair, but I never wanted us to part this way. I’ll miss you.

19 thoughts on “I’m shedding

  1. My best friend says you should listen to the song skin by Rascal flats

  2. I admire your strength. I think I would have burst into tears. Sending you warm wishes and prayers/good thoughts!

  3. Awww… hair isn’t that important… its not a girl’s crowning glory. I’m sure you’ll be just as loved and just as pretty without as much hair as you once did. 🙂 There’s light at the end of all this girl- you may have your own enlightenment thing waiting to happen… Kisses and best wishes!

  4. rachelocal says:

    My cousin just went through the exact same thing you are enduring now–including tissue expanders and no hair. I’m happy to report she is cancer free and her hair is growing in quite nicely–and it’s curly.

    Your writing style as well as your outlook is positive. Thank you for sharing your story and yourself with us.

  5. When my neurosurgeon shaved the back of my head it was quite traumatic…I had had long hair but went to have most of it cut before surgery. But – I’ll never forget the sounds of the clipper/trimmer thing. I can relate with you – on some level. And as others have said – thank you for sharing your strength!

    • Michelle says:

      Back in college I helped my a friend shave a V for Virginia into his head once. That’s the only experience I have with electric clippers, so hopefully I can keep this from being too traumatic when I finally get the nerve to just shave it off.

  6. Alison says:

    It really sucks to lose your hair. Well, I shouldn’t say it sucks. It’s just that there’s a lot of anticipation for that moment when it does and when it happens you get a sinking feeling like, “Oh. So this is how it’s going down.” I just finished neo-adjuvant chemo. My protocol was 12 weeks of taxol and herceptin followed by 4 rounds of FEC and herceptin. My hair hung in there for the first 12 weeks but after my first round of FEC I started losing my eyebrows and then I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. My first night in the hospital my hair finally threw in the towel. It was depressing sitting in an isolation room with nothing to do but watch my hair fall out and watch the poor janitor suit up in mask, gloves and gown to come in every so often and sweep up hair. When I got home three days later I shaved my head. It was an exhilarating feeling. Followed by the best shower ever. After 12 plus weeks of gingerly washing my hair I just stood directly under the shower head for 10 minutes. I’m five weeks out now and my hair is back and looks like a newly sprouted chia pet. I haven’t gone topless yet but it’s there!! P.s. love, love, love your blog!

  7. Fire Penguin says:

    Electric clippers are cruisey. I use them on horses all the time and (usually) no one is traumatized.

  8. chymeera says:

    I know how you feel, girlie. I went through this over the Christmas period…of all times to have to lose your locks, the festive season isn’t one of them. I knew it was coming but like you, I lived in lalaland for a while, hoping I’d be one of the lucky ones who don’t lose their hair (yup there is an elite number out there who go through chemo keeping their mop up). To prevent the hairloss I had been told I could use the cold cap but it worked better on shorter hair, so one week before my first chemo, I went to have my long, brown, thick locks cut to a stylish bob…I must say, I was quite please with the results and got lots of compliments for it. Cost me £40 and lasted 3 weeks as the cold cap had a malfunction on the day and therefore didn’t do it’s job! 2 days before Xmas, I felt a tingle on my scalp, pass my hand through my hair and came out with a massive clump of hair…Darn it! For a day, I stressed about it as my family didn’t want me to shave it but after a day fretting over it and thinking about nothing else, I decided I couldn’t stay like that so the next I asked my cousin to pull the clippers out and shave it all off! It was a little daunting at first but I haven’t regretted my decision! I stopped worrying about my hair and lucky for me I didn’t go fully bald and kept my eyebrows so for someone who just passes me by, they can still believe that one of those cool chicks with cropped hair!
    I hope you find a solution which suits you and don’t listen to anyone who tells you it’s nothing to worry yourself about it…You are entitled to freak out about it. One’s hair is quite an important part of one’s identity! Myself I decided not to bother with hats, scarves or wigs…well I wear a beanie when outside coz it’s still blooming winter here in the UK (and fyi, I found mine on Amazon for £3!), they are just too itchy and make me really hot. There is also a charity, here in the UK but you might have something similar in the US, called LookGoodFeelBetter (http://www.lookgoodfeelbetter.co.uk) which gives advice to women going through cancer and the physical signs of it to help them get their confidence and mojo back! Just because you are sick doesn’t mean you have to look ill! 🙂

    Sorry for the long comment…I am a natural chatterbox!
    Keep fabulous!

  9. annbeaton says:

    I think losing your hair is a huge deal. Seriously, you already feel vulnerable and occasionally scared out of your wits with this thing. Losing your hair seems like the coup de grace.

    BUT it’ll grow back–and not always curly. Mine didn’t, and it was actually thicker and easier to manage after chemo than before.

    My hairdresser cut it very close when it started to fall out, but it would have looked a little less strange, I think, if I’d had him shave it. There really isn’t much you can do with that stuff once it falls out. Just wait til it comes back!

    In the meantime, see if you can’t get some mileage out of that Southern Belle routine.

    Thinking of you every day and sending huge wishes for your health and happiness.

  10. pattiapaul says:

    The hair will come back sooner or later, no biggie. Real cool thing would be the temporary tattoos where your bald spots are or if you decide to shave everything off. Saw it on a lady going through chemo. Have fun with it! At least you can say your going through chemo that’s why you lost your hair. My hair loss (alopecia) the doctor says came from sudden stress a few years before I ever got cancer. Go figure.

  11. you are incredible. and beautiful. hair or no hair. my hairo for the day!

  12. Alynne Leigh says:

    Hey you. I think you’re pretty amazing. (:

    Just know, I’m laughing, crying, and laughing some more, right along with you, girlfriend! And you are most definitely in my prayers.

    PS: the floppy sun hat thing? I say go for it. I only WISH I could pull off such a look. Embrace the flop!!

  13. lisacng says:

    KB is funny. Glad you and her could find the humor in the moment. You seem like you have a pretty head and an attitude to pull-off a shaved look though. Do it.

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