The day I lost my hair was an emotional roller coaster. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I would lose my hair; my oncologist made that pretty apparent; it was a matter of when. Much research was done on the “Cold Cap ( a cap used when receiving chemotherapy to help preserve/prevent hair loss), which was not an option for me in addition to other treatments. I was so attached to my hair that I prayed about not losing it. I felt like this would help me mask being sick, and there was security in people not knowing. In my mind, it would help me cope better. That’s a conversation for another post.
Before I digress too much, let me get back to the day I lost my hair. So two weeks had gone by since my first chemo treatment. My hair was still in tack; I had a convention to prepare for and scheduled a hair appointment for Thursday, June 13th, 2019. After my first chemo treatment, my focus was to keep my day-to-day routine as much as possible. A couple of days before my hair appointment, I noticed that my hair was coming out a little bit more than usual when I brushed it. Still optimistic, I attributed it to natural hair shedding and proceeded with my day.
Thursday, June 13th, finally came, and I decided that I should probably warn my stylist that my hair was shedding a little bit more than usual and not to be alarmed because I did start my first chemo treatment. Before she started washing my hair at the shampoo bowl, I made this disclaimer. She proceeded cautiously and began to wash. A silence overtook us both as the warm water hit my head. As she washed my hair, I could feel that my hair was coming out in her hands. After a few minutes of silence, I decided to ask her if it was coming out? It was like I needed to hear her say it. She paused and said it’s coming out in patches. She promised to do her best to preserve as much as she could. Silence overtook me; no words came from my mouth, and tears just began to stroll down my face as she continued to wash my hair. The one emotion that stands out to me about what I was feeling at that moment was fear. Fear consumed me, and I couldn’t contain or hide it for once.
I had this little afro pictured to the right by the time she finished. All the women present that day made an extra effort to acknowledge that my hair turned out nice. Sniffling, with my head down, intent on not making eye contact, I told them all thank you. I walked out of the salon, took slow steps to my car, and just cried. I remember calling my husband once I got myself somewhat together. As soon as I heard his voice, I said to him hysterically I lost my hair today. I can’t tell you to this day what he said. I remember a voice coming from where he was, someone present, saying, I’m sure you’re still beautiful. That was very kind, but I didn’t feel beautiful. In fact, as I reflect back on that moment, being beautiful was the least of my concern. I literally was afraid for my life; the planner in me thought about how I could manage everything else in my life while undergoing treatment. Part of my plan was to just hide it and to do that, I needed my hair. Now that my hair has fallen out, I’ve lost my buffer to aid me in masking what I was going through. Yes, my hair was my buffer; it was my security blanket.
I went through the weekend not doing much to my hair because I realized what was left of it was like a toupee. Trying to brush my edges, I uncovered when any part was touched or pulled, my hair would come out from the root leaving bald spots. That weekend I knew I would see many friends that I get to see annually at this convention, and my thought process was to play it cool like I had a haircut to avoid too many questions. It’s interesting when you’re trying to hide something; you feel like everyone knows anyway. At least, this is how I felt. The truth was many people didn’t know because I was doing a pretty good job at hiding it on the outside.
The weekend was finally over, I was back home, and I’d managed to survive through an entire weekend with my customized toupee. As I passed by a mirror, I remember feeling overwhelmed. My anxiety became really high, and after taking off all of my makeup, I thought, what is happening to me? I hadn’t had time to process any of this, and it was all happening very fast. All these emotions left me feeling defeated. I’m not one for much emotion unless I’m watching a tear-jerker of a movie, yet I have felt all sorts of things since my diagnosis.
An hour went by, and I decided I needed to have a pow-wow with myself. During this conversation, I decided I wouldn’t hold on to my fears. At that moment, I chose the first thing I would let go of was my hair. I walked over to the trash can, put my fingers at the root of my hair, and slowly lifted the hair off of my head. It came off that easily. With each lift, I saw a naked portion of my scalp; I sat there until my scalp was completely bald. What felt like a weight lifted off of me. I didn’t know it thoroughly then, but the day I lost my hair was also the day I decided to not live my life in fear. There was freedom in owning this journey, and each month, I became more and more grateful for the journey that would lie ahead.
Sometimes our biggest fears are also the things that will make us more resilient, the very thing that strengthens our very existence. Own that you’re afraid; fear is real, but don’t let fear rule your every decision, every experience. Fear is a weight that, if we’re not careful, that will pull us down, lift the weights (sometimes we need help, and that’s okay), and continue to allow your trials to build reliance and endurance. It took many months to get to where I could talk about this journey, but boy, am I glad that I’ve arrived. This journey has brought about tears and gratitude; it’s brought about pain and growth. At the root of it all, it has brought about love. With every negative, there’s a positive. I’m thankful that my Grand Creator has allowed me to live through the negatives to experience all the positives that I now enjoy!!!