…On Losing My Hair

I am finally back!! Been really exhausted for the past 3 days and they say there’s more coming because the chemo takes 7-10 days to really hit.  I can’t wait.  My next blog will cover the re-infusion of my stem cells, but I wanted to blog first about my hair. Why do I want to do that?  Well, I have had a love/hate kind of relationship with my hair for as long as I can remember. As a child, my mother kept our hair cut short and always with bangs, but she could never quite get them straight so they usually were crooked right up to the hairline.  I always had bangs. My hair has always been very thick, wavy and curly and frizzy in humid weather.  I always wanted a nice loose swingy pony tail as a kid, but instead mine was short and compact – it just didn’t swing!  As a teenager my hair was long and I would iron it on the ironing board with a cloth over my hair.  I would use huge rollers to set it after washing and then would sit under a big hair dryer like old salons used to have.  This all took hours.  I had my Cher look going for a while, with bangs covering my eyebrows – very dramatic! The bottom line is that much of my identify and how I thought and felt about myself has been associated with my hair, and this carried through my corporate career and beyond. When my hair didn’t look right to me, then I didn’t feel good about myself.  Everything seemed to center around my darned hair and when I didn’t like it then I wasn’t good enough  to do or be anything.   So when I knew for sure that this transplant would wipe out my hair I, admittedly, was afraid, but then as I moved forward I thought that this could be a chance to know myself without hair and really discover myself in a whole new way.

On February 25th I had the first of the two hi-dose chemo treatments but I had already started losing my hair from the first chemo blast I had on February 14th.  So after the chemo I decided to go to the salon in the lobby of Hopkins and get some suggestions.  I had already previously bought a wig but this was more about shedding my own hair first.  The salon is a blessing for anyone going through chemo as they not only cut hair but sell wigs and other accessories as well. It’s such a feel good place. The stylist suggested a pixie cut – and OMG I loved it!!  I was so shocked that I liked it – but my eyes were so big and my cheekbones were prominent and I just saw myself in a whole new way.  I felt SO happy!  I bought a scarf that I could wear over my head which has brilliant colors in it and sweeps to the side, with a kind of illusion of having hair.  Although my pixie was short-lived as more of it has fallen out, it still awakened me to the fact that I am so much more than my hair. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and now when I look into my eyes I do see my soul, I see a woman who I love unconditionally.  I woke up in the middle of the night smiling about my hair – crazy, huh!  But then I thought of the book The Velveteen Rabbit – my gosh I was becoming REAL!  Did you ever read it?  It’s a favorite of mine I’ve read to my grandchildren over the past several years. Here are my favorite quotes from the book:

“Real isn’t how you are made, said the Skin Horse.  It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been rubbed off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“Once you are real you can’t become unreal again.  It lasts always.”

Stephen Levine writes “we don’t have to rid ourselves of anything to be whole.  All we have to do is bring mercy and awareness to what already is, to allow it to unfold.  Awareness heals.”

My awareness grows with each new experience through this stem cell transplant odyssey.  My “goal” was to be aware of everything I could and to find wholeness and healing through that process.  Since the cancer was diagnosed I have been on a mission to know myself at a very deep level – and I am slowly finding her.  Her hair may be all rubbed off, her joints a little rusty, her body a little limp, but she is a whole person nonetheless,  with a huge open heart who loves deeply and who is grateful for all she has received.

Thanks for sharing my journey.

With love,