I have hair. On my head, that is. I have hair in other places, basically all the places in varying forms, being that I am a mammal. But I’m not so much concerned about that hair, especially since it’s getting cold out and I won’t have to shave my legs until spring. I’m concerned about the hair on my head.
It’s not that I’m concerned about my hair. It’s doing its job, sitting on my head, growing, occasionally being blown by the wind into my lip gloss, clogging the drain in my shower. So, I’m not worried about it, but I think about it. I think about it a lot.
The life of my hair started out straight and brown. It remained that way until not long after the birth of my first child when that lone gray popped out to say hi. Many more followed his lead over the years and that’s when boxed color became my friend.
And so it went, hair stayed brown, thanks to the box. It stayed straight. Sometimes it was long, mostly there were bangs, layers. Over the years I figured out what worked with me and my hair and I stuck to the style script. Then, I found the funny lump.
Hair, my hair, on tamoxifen didn’t change much. Like my skin, it required a little more moisturizing. The shower drain got clogged more quickly, but not so much that it was noticeably thin. That’s when I started to think about it. I wasn’t just feeling the effects of being ill. I could see them in the mirror every morning. They were subtle, but they were there.
When it was determined that tamoxifen was not having any meaningful impact on the growth of my tumor we moved on to the hard stuff. The first oral chemo I was on didn’t agree with me, more specifically my liver, and didn’t appear to be doing anything to my tumor. I wasn’t on it long enough to see the full extent of what chemotherapy can do to your hair. Eventually I was put on an oral chemo that worked and that’s when I found out.
The day before I cut my hair short, when I’d finally given in to the thinning, I was at a friend’s white elephant Christmas party. I’d had my chin length bob then, hair pinned in such a way to hide the growing bald spots at my temples. I spent the entire evening mourning quietly inside. Life was going in the direction it was. I no longer had a say in the matter.
Watching your hair thin substantially is a bitter pill to swallow. That pill is coated with some honey when you know the chemo is actually doing its thing, but it still tastes strange. I watched over time as about half of my head of box brown hair fell into the sink, the tub, the floor, my clothes. My skin became so sensitive I could no longer color it. So I watched my head of box brown hair not only get thinner and thinner, but lighter and grayer as well. Some days it was more than I could bear.
Then, when treatment was successful and it was all over, that miraculous human body of mine rebounded in all its glory. But it isn’t the same and my new hairs told me so. My post chemo hair came in like tiny determined weeds, standing up and begging for attention. Some kinky curly, some straight, some wavy. Every day a new texture.
So, I got some color and I tamed those wavy weeds with straightening serum. I found my way back to my same old bob, same old bangs. And I was me once more. For a time, anyway. For a brief respite things were normal.
But you’re never the same. I’m not, at least. All the time spent straightening the kink, darkening my roots felt like wasted time. And the effort was futile. Humidity, snow, rain all conspired to undo the work I’d put into being normal, being me. I couldn’t keep pace with the gray growing in faster and covering more of my head. So, eventually I let it all go.
I didn’t like it. I didn’t march into my new hair confidently, proudly, joyously. It was change. It was life going in its own direction. I didn’t have much say in the matter. It’s like hearing the diagnosis over and over for the first time on a much smaller scale. This is change I did not want, I did not ask for. But I have to accept it anyway.
Straight haired girls have no business with a wavy mop. I sure didn’t. It took me weeks and months of tweaking. New shampoos, conditioners, styling creams and mousses and gels. And eventually I found a place, a happy place, a new normal. I settled in and embraced the wave.
I’d read recently that chemo curls don’t always stay. It’s a phase for some. Then your hair goes back to what it was. Before the bad times. Back when you weren’t sick, you didn’t need the poison. Reading that made me sad. What if my hair went back, now that I’ve finally come to love the kink?
Yesterday was my first haircut in more than 6 months. It was a haircut I’d kept looking for reasons to not have. In part, I’m sure, because it meant maybe saying goodbye. I sat in the chair, explained my plight, showed her a picture. I don’t know what we’ll get when you’re done. It may be curly. It may be straight. I don’t know.
She worked her magic, noted there was still a little wave in it and she’d style it accordingly. I left with wavy hair, I left not knowing if any of those waves were actually mine. And I still don’t know, as I type this, if my hair is straight or if it’s curly. I’ll find out after my shower in a short time.
I think about it, a lot. My hair. I think about it, how it has changed with me, in spite of me. How I fight it. How I wish for it to be normal again even when I no longer know what normal means. I’m not thinking about the hair, though, I’m thinking about the change. I’m thinking about life going in whatever damn direction it chooses whenever the hell it decides.
It’s not about the hair. It’s about the past 6 years of not knowing when or how or where and most certainly not why. It’s about being jerked to and fro and not knowing which end is up. It’s about choices being simultaneously stolen from you and made for you in the blink of an eye. It’s about the next MRI. It’s about a future you may not even have.
It’s not about the hair. It’s about the fear. It’s about the not knowing. The wondering. The what ifs. It’s about wanting to plan and being unable to try. It’s about being afraid and I am afraid. That’s okay.
It’s not about the hair. It’s about life going where it wants, when it wants and how it shall. And, all the while, I’m stuck in the why.