Cynthia: The Bald Facts

RBB-B06144I always loved doing crazy things with my hair: red, black, asymmetric. Streaked. Short. Shorn. My hairstylist loved me. He’d give me a massage and a glass of wine and he’d get happy with the scissors. He could have shaved “Up Yours” on the back of my head and I would have laughed.

“After all,” I said. “It’s only hair. If I don’t like it, it’ll grow.”

That was before breast cancer. If I’d known what I know now, I would have gathered up those last scraps of hair from the salon floor like strands of gold.  As a lifelong athlete, I decided to approach treatment like training for a race—with perseverance, patience and a sense of humour. My new “training schedule”, was clearly explained to me: a partial mastectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy, plus 31 doses of radiation.

The chemo—a powerful cocktail of Taxotere, Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide—would make me feel nauseous, my white blood cell count would plummet… and I would lose my hair. But my hair would grow back, they promised. And I would go back to normal—or at least a new normal.

Eight months after my chemo finished, I am as bald as a bean.
My doctors are perplexed. People try not to stare. I hide in the house on a sunny day.

“It’ll grow back,” console well-meaning friends. “Wear a wig,” others suggest dismissively. Finally, my oncologist—obviously a mad scientist—told me to rub garlic on my head. My sense of humour is running out.

“Do you have nose hair?” asked a curious friend.

“Let me check,” I said. Then he stared in disbelief while I, a well-mannered middle-aged woman, stuck my finger up my nose.

“No,” I said, after considerable excavation. “Nada—no ear hair, no eyelashes, no eyebrows.”

I used to want so much in life—so much stuff—but now I would settle for the simple gift of eyelashes. Hair is so much more than vanity. It’s protection. It’s warmth. It’s the very essence of femininity. My head, once a form of whimsical self-expression, is now a scar—a daily reminder of my disease.

So, love your hair… “long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty,” as the musical “Hair” celebrates. “There ain’t no words
for the beauty, the splendor, the wonder of my… hair.”

4 thoughts on “Cynthia: The Bald Facts

  1. Wow! That’s amazing! I didn’t know you could become permanently bald from chemotherapy!

  2. No one has really had a Bad Hair Day until they have a No Hair Day! Or, in my case, a No Hair Day for 3 years [1095 days and counting]. I have forgotten what it feels like to run my fingers through my hair, shampoo it, condition it, wear a ponytail, get a haircut, blow it dry, curl it, style it, pile it on top of my head, color it, twirl it, braid it, gel it, etc. Hair is a woman’s crowning glory! You can’t watch tv, read a magazine, shop at the mall, without being reminded that HAIR is an integral part of a woman’s ‘style’, and her ‘beauty’.
    I believe there is a solution to getting my hair back BUT I fear that no one cares enough to find that solution in time for me to enjoy the rest of my life.

  3. I was looking through a magazine just today and on every page it seemed there was someone with hair flowing or blowing or bouncing. I have never been an envious person or someone who begrudges other’s successes, but I suddenly find myself jealous of hair-any hair, any color, any length. Funny how you take something like hair for granted and then pine so deeply for it when it’s gone. My doctor keeps telling me that he has NEVER had a patient whose hair did not grow back, but on my last visit, he admitted that sometimes it grows back “different” — different texture, color, thinner… Hello? I love my onc, but the guy is in denial about MY hair, or lack thereof. I do miss my hair so badly!

  4. I know many women who have battled cancer. I’ve seen their beautiful bald heads and known that the alternative would be much worse…but that doesn’t always bring a smile. After reading your comments I began thinking of all the ads out there where models are tall, thin, beautiful, with flowing hair, perfect teeth and flawless skin. As women we are all effected by the media and the hits it takes to our self esteem…that is why I believe this forum is so important. Celebrate you! You are heroes!

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