It’s such a part of who we are, how we identify ourselves and when we hear the words, “You have cancer,” one of the first things we ask the doctor when he mentions chemotherapy is “Will I lose my hair?”
Most of the time a regiment of chemo means losing your hair. It really depends on the drugs but if it doesn’t completely fall out, it’s pretty likely your hair will become thin and wispy during treatment.
And so it was with my friend who has just finished her chemo and radiation. Her hair came out in clumps. It caused a lot of anxiety. She’s worn her long hair in a ponytail for a very long time. Occasionally, she’d wear it down and I would barely recognize her. But her hair was a big part of her identity. Without it, she stayed inside a lot, or she wore a ‘chemo cap’ or stretchy cap to hide her baldness.
So now it’s hot outside, the pool is open and she’s having a hard time coming to grips with her old routine of sitting in the sunshine and talking to the same pool pals she’s had for more than 20 years. It’s just not easy.
Her doctor told her to sit in the shade. She said too much sun isn’t good for my friend following all that treatment. Her hair has grown in and it looks like a Peter Pan cut; very short and the gray has taken over where brown once resided. These are all big changes in her eyes, but for those of us who are just happy to have her back at the pool, short, gray hair is hardly an issue.
But try and tell her that!
So we’ve come light years since it used to be the whispers about so-and-so having cancer that caused the patients to hide in their homes. CANCER was the issue. For years, the word cancer wasn’t even mentioned in conversation. Other words were used, but not CANCER.
Now, it’s about the hair, or lack of it. Being bald gives us away now. Are there still whispers, I hope not. I hope we’ve gotten past that part.
But it’s going to take a long time to get past the hair.