Hair can be part of our identity - but …


Hair can be part of our identity - but it doesn't define me

Oct. 12, 2017 | by Ashlinn Sarah Jane

Our hair becomes a part of our identity very early in life: how much we are born with, how our parents style it, how we grow into styling it ourselves, experimenting with different cuts and colours, and as we age, whether we conceal greys or let our aging happen organically.

As big a part of us as our hair is, it doesn't define who we are.

There was a news headline that read, "Kate Hudson, Barely Recognizable" ...something or other, after shaving all her hair off.

Look it up yourself if you feel so inclined, there are hundreds of headlines about it and each article is problematic in its own way, especially for cancer patients.

We are NOT our hair, despite it being a method to alter our appearance, take control of our image, and bring tangible change to our lives. These articles that state: [So And So... Looks Nothing Like Themselves After Shocking Hair Transformation] are alienating, especially to the cancer community who have no control over potential hair loss.

I went through three different hair lengths before my stem cell transplant, each one getting shorter as time went on, until I decided to have my sister shave my hair off completely.  It was difficult to part with (no pun intended). Her being a cancer survivor prior to my diagnosis was a comfort to me, and she gave me her old head scarves and taught me how to tie them, but not everyone has this luxury.

When my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 months after my sister with lymphoma, and being a teacher in a public forum, she felt it was important to keep all semblance of normalcy as possible and she bought a wig that looked more like natural hair than the fine, wispy waves she had naturally, and that she passed down to me.

Kate Hudson is known for her long locks of blonde, but if you showed me a picture of her with a lob, bob, or stark bald, I could still tell that it's her. Many patients feel like they lose a part of them when they lose their hair to treatments, but hair is a fluid feature. The thing about it is: it grows back (a vast majority of the time).

Despite me growing it back in and a period with way too many bobby pins, I enjoyed the process.

My family would rub my bald head for good luck, I was blessed with a low-maintenance 'do, once accustomed to heavy up-keep and growing it back to it's former length felt like I was growing back into myself again.

But this isn't the case for everyone. Some people get to a length they never thought would have looked good on them, and end up keeping the style.

While having short hair, it felt like I was trying something on, giving it a test-drive, and at the end of it I just felt like had plenty of time ahead of me to have short hair, but while I was and am still (relatively) young, I want it long.

I do plan on going short in the future, maybe 20 years down the road if I live that long, and I feel lucky to have gotten to try it out and that I had no choice to because otherwise I wouldn't have gone that short.

I actually liked how I looked with short hair once it got long enough for me to have my signature side-bangs and oh boy did it come back soft like baby hair!

Letting it grow was a choice of my own -- as is with all body hair and their respective owners -- and I had missed having different hairstyles and being able to experiment; there's not much variety to a pixie cut.

I am a creature of habit and change has always been difficult for me. But that's me.

You are you no matter what your hair looks like. You still have the same heart, same brain, and same soul, and this physical transformation is a metaphor for the fight for life going on in your body.

It is an emblem of your strength and a badge of honour, just like your scars.

It is difficult during this time to hear friends complain that they're having a bad hair day or walk past a hair salon but it gets easier.

Embrace the process.




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Ashlinn Sarah Jane

Ashlinn Sarah Jane

I survived leukemia at 21 through an anonymous donation of stem cells. After losing my mum to breast cancer at 17, my sister, a survivor of non-hodgkins lymphoma was there to help me through. Through my posts I hope to showcase an honest portrayal of battling cancer, while sharing my personal story and the issues that have been important to me.