I first read Little Women when I was around 10 years old. Since then I’ve read it at least 4 more times and the line that always resonated with me was when Amy exclaims to Jo, who has just chopped off her hair and sold it to earn money for the family, “Oh Jo, how could you? Your one beauty.”
My hair to me was always my one beauty.
Harriet would say its my legs. My dad would say my smile. Jesse would (smartly) say its everything. But I would have said my hair.
The chemo hair loss is not something anyone can prepare you for but I’ll try. Every cancer drug is different but from my friend Tai’s experience, and what I had read on countless blogs or instagram posts, it would happen at two weeks. As I finished my first week and went into the next nothing happened. My scalp tingled a little bit like when you have your hair up in a ponytail or bun for too long and it mildly ached. But no unusual amount of hair came out. That was until day 11 when I ran my fingers through my hair and a large amount of strands came out. Day 12 I couldn’t not pull out chunks of hair whenever I touched it. Large handfuls of hair just kept coming. It was a defeating feeling.
Hair was everywhere. On my arms and shoulders. On the kitchen counters. In piles on the floor in front of the bathroom sink. Balls of it in my shoes. I had decided once it started falling out I would shave half of it off and my only regret was that I didn’t do it sooner. But looking back the days after chemo seemed to be a lifetime and when my hair didn’t fall out right away I thought maybe I would get lucky and wouldn’t lose my hair.
I was wrong but damn if this haircut didn’t feel right.
I had my mom and Jesse each cut off a chunk because this was part of their stories too. For my mom, it was the last big crappy hurdle we had been dreading in the chemo-verse. For Jesse, it gave me the sense of reassurance I needed that he would love me even without hair like he said he would. Then my sister cut 1/4 of my hair off to practice. She was a pro. When that line was straight, she went for the gusto and cut off the rest. So much hair fell around my feet. And then it was done. It was over in less than 10 minutes. I didn’t cry like I had earlier that day thinking about it. There was honestly no emotion but relief that it was done.
Shaving half my head gave me a sense of control. I was worried about not saving my hair to make a wig, but honestly once my hair was off my head it was shocking how damaged and processed it was from years of bleaching and dying. I felt liberated.
I was free from the fear.
Sadly that badass haircut only lasted for three days before it all fell out so fast I felt disgusting in public. I threw a handful of hair away in a Costco trash can and it got stuck STICKING OUT of the flap (due to germ risk I wasn’t pushing that lid in again). It was all over the floor of my gym. Wherever I was, my hair was. My DNA was all up in San Diego’s business.
My hair was like a breadcrumb trail you could use to track me.
The only option was to shave it all and honestly I couldn’t wait.
Alyssa got to cut off the rest. She has been there from the beginning and I wanted her to have some control too. We went to Brightside Barber in Hillcrest and fterward we went to one of our favorite dive bars, NuNus, where I’ve made countless memories with both of them. It was honestly perfect and not at all how I imagined it would be when I thought about shaving my head. I think because I did it on my terms, the way I wanted, I was able to avoid the panic, tear inducing overwhelming event I was imagining.
My head is cold. I’m learning what products to use. Its very white and smaller than I expected. It isn’t lopsided. And my ears are kind of really cute. I kind of don’t hate it.
I teared up when I took off my beanie in the bar that night because I felt embarrassed and exposed. Jesse just looked me in the eye and told me it was fine. He squeezed my hand under the table. And he keeps naming crazy cool bald women from tv shows and films that I look like.
Each time I just smile and think, “Hell yeah I do.”