I really didn’t expect to be so upset by my hair loss. I’d had short hair for as long as I could remember, thought it would be no big deal. My hair had been every colour under the rainbow, even, I think, my own. I had grown it out the year before my diagnosis, and kept it a pretty “grown up” blonde. I figured it was time to grow up a little, and my hair was a good place to start. Upon receiving my diagnosis, and meeting with my Oncologist to discuss my treatment plan I understood I was receiving the “get fat and bald” chemo. My words, absolutely not a medical term people! There are “get skinny and keep your hair” chemo options, but they weren’t going to work for me. So I knew it was coming, but the question was when.
About a week after my first chemo treatment, it started falling out. Not strand by strand, but huge clumps of it at a time. I was shocked and very upset, and decided I couldn’t go bald still looking like “me.” I went to my longtime hairstylist and had it cut short. I swear, everyone else in the salon was crying more than me! I couldn’t look in the mirror. I couldn’t talk about it, or bear to have anyone comment on it. It was the first visible effect of my cancer. I was now officially “in treatment.” Coming to work was tough, not everyone knew about my cancer yet so it was uncomfortable. I don’t see the same people every day, so it was an ongoing event every time I told someone. By the end of the first month I had it down to a science. I could tell people, make them laugh and get back to normal all before they knew what’d hit them.
I was bald as a Q-tip by my second chemo treatment. I had hoped that my head scarves would arrive before the day, but of course they arrived as I was at the hospital. I wasn’t comfortable being bald yet, so I wore my winter toque at the hospital. Bald is a funny feeling, and one I didn’t enjoy. My head and ears got very cold, it was February after all. I didn’t like the sensation of wind across my head, and I couldn’t sleep. I had been told that satin pillow cases would be gentle on my head and hair as it fell out, but I couldn’t sleep slip-sliding around on the things. I ended up wearing that old toque a lot, even while alone.
Finding head scarves that a 30-something could get away with were a whole other matter. No terry cloth turbans, funny hats with “hair” and no droopy Rasta hats for me. I had a wig, but it was so itchy and hot. I wore it to work (and to anything I cared what I looked like for), but otherwise wore a grey cotton headscarf. I felt it gave me a “bad ass” look. It eventually became my uniform. Jeans, t-shirt, fun shoes and my grey head scarf; that was me.
My cancer was no longer a secret. I had people looking at me on the subway, even some bold enough to approach me and ask outright if I was sick. It took me a long time before I could hold my head up and look those strangers in the eye and stare them down. I had to force myself to go out, do regular things. I wanted to hide, avoid the looks and questions. I couldn’t though. I couldn’t let myself get in a hole I didn’t know I could make my way out of. So I adopted my favourite saying: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” It became my mantra… feel free to use it as you will.