Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Within two seconds of hearing the words I had cancer I was dreading the fact I would lose my hair. That’s not an exaggeration. Now granted in that same moment I did not know if my treatment plan would even include chemo, which is the very factor that causes hair loss. But in the moment of diagnosis, that’s where my mind went.

As a Caucasian female in the United States, society and culture has placed beauty in the hands of physical features — weight, height, a million other physical factors…including hair. So while I told myself over and over (as did others) it was just hair, I was lying to myself. And frankly, nobody else really had grounds to tell me it was just hair and would grow back either (though I understand why they did — like many other things it’s all they knew to say and were trying to bring comfort to a hard topic). The only people who repeatedly, sternly said, “Sarah, it is not.just.hair” were the women who had navigated breast cancer before and lost their hair. They knew the deep anxiety, sadness and frankly anger I had about what was going to happen.

My hair — naturally curly (yes, my hair was naturally curly but you never saw it that way), long and dark brown (hadn’t dyed it since high school) was something I was always ok with. Did I think I had the best hair ever? Absolutely not. Was I ok with the hair I was blessed with? I was. Yet in the moment where I had no choice…no say in whether or not I would lose it, it quickly became the thing I loved most about myself. Life’s funny like that, isn’t it?

So on the day I met with my cancer care team for the first time (a week after being diagnosed) I was in a fog of all the details — HER2+, measuring at 1.8, chemo, surgery, radiation. I honestly was so proud of myself for how I kept it together that day. The only moment I almost absolutely, full blown lost it? When my oncologist was talking to me about side effects of the chemo I would have, he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “…and your hair. You are going to lose your hair.”

Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths.

I got home from that long day of appointments and said to my family as we debriefed on all the details, “I still can’t believe I am going to be bald.” I was mad at myself for being so worried about hair when I had just been diagnosed with cancer. It felt so silly and selfish, and yet…it is not.just.hair.

In the “My Worries” section of my prayer journal I wrote about losing my hair day after day after day.

*Fast forward to chemo 2 treatment – give or take a few days*

It was like someone flipped a switch. As I got ready on a Sunday morning chunks of hair came out in my hand. My brush looked like I was holding a giant, fresh spin of cotton candy. My bathroom floor looked like a war zone of fallen hair. I knew that would perhaps be the last time I used a hairdryer, a brush and a straightener for quite some time. In the days to come my head and hair physically hurt. It started to get matted (almost like a dreadlock) and was very, very uncomfortable.

I messaged a group of friends and told them I didn’t think I could go through with my original plan of showing up at a local salon on a Saturday to have my hairstylist shave my head. Without hesitation the replies were quick and kind — “Absolutely, I am in!”…”You tell me when and where, and I’ll be there!”…”No matter when the moment happens I will not miss it!”…”We are here for you!”

I shared my vision — I wanted to make a playlist (it was called Bye, Bye Hair and was quite epic), eat some cake and shave my head. Cancer could take my hair, but it was not going to take my joy.

Without hesitation, they were in!

…and so the day came. I didn’t sleep the night before. For weeks, days, hours and minutes I had absolutely dreaded what was standing right in front of me to be tackled. DREADED it. This wasn’t just about losing my hair and being bald, it was about no longer being able to hide from others that I was in a battle of some sort.

I could go on and on and on about losing my hair during cancer. About what not to say to someone you know who may be facing the loss of hair. The fact our society really needs to stop seeing a bald female and having any thoughts beyond the simple fact she’s a female with no hair — for whatever her reason. {If you want to talk about any of those things, happy to do so some day} But instead, I want to leave you with photos from one of the hardest days of my life.

My dear friend Becca — the insanely talented photographer / videographer — was in town for 24 hours. Unplanned. It just so happened (or did it? Thanks, God!) she was around and very graciously offered to come take some photos. Deep down I knew some day I would be thankful to have these, and my goodness am I so thankful to have these.

To Christina, Beth, Molly, Frankee, Rachel and Becca — thank you for quite literally standing with me in this moment. For crying with me, for taking over the clippers when I no longer could keep cutting, for making the most beautiful and tasty four layer lemon cake, for praying over me before it got incredibly difficult…just for being present. You will absolutely never, ever know what your time meant in this moment. I am forever thankful. I love you all dearly.

Oh, and spoiler alert: I felt so much better after my head was shaved. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt anxiety rush away. I smiled genuinely. I experienced joy amongst friends I adore. After the hair was all gone I still saw — and continue to see — beautiful. By beautiful I mean strong, brave, a fighter. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever be more beautiful to me.

One thought on “Hair today, gone tomorrow.

  1. Continue using the strength that you have been blessed with, Sarah. And always say your bedtime, daytime and anytime prayers.šŸŒ»šŸ™šŸŒŸ

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