Three years ago today I was sitting on my sister-in-law’s patio waiting to pick my kids up from carpool when “IT” started to happen. Just an hour earlier, I had brushed my fingers through my hair anticipating that moment but it hadn’t started. Now as I sat there on the patio on a beautiful May afternoon, I looked at Jennifer and said, ” Oh no! It’s happening.” I showed her many strands of hair that I had just pulled out with a soft stroke to push my hair behind my ear. Just two weeks earlier I had received my first dose of chemo. With every stroke through my hair more and more strands began to fall out. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. I had cut my shoulder length hair to a short bob cut the week before I started chemo in anticipation of this moment. I had never had short hair since I was a child so cutting it to a short bob was quite a change. Yet losing all of my hair was going to be so dramatic. Looking back, would I have changed my decision to have chemo in order to keep my hair? Of course not. My four children and husband were too important to leave behind. I still had a lot of memories to make with them. Did losing my hair teach me something about myself? No doubt! I might even say it was a blessing. There were so many bright moments.
So many people advised that I should shave it off as soon as it starts falling out. I went for a different approach. One that I knew would be best for me and my children. Over the next few weeks, my hair began to fall out in bigger and bigger clumps. We decided to have fun with it. I would sit with my 4 children, ages 8, 6, 4 and 8 months around me and let them pull it out to see who could pull out the most hair. They were enthralled with the fact that they could yank on it and it didn’t hurt me. Silver Lining: My children weren’t traumatized. It was kind of cool for them!
We even decided to play a joke on my sister. She knew that my hair had started to fall out but hadn’t seen me. One day, while over at my parents’ house we pulled out clumps of hair and laid them on the sidewalk leading up to the door. When my sister pulled up with her friend and got out of the car she noticed the hair and commented to her friend as they walked in, “Do you think Julie knows that this is happening?” We got a good laugh. Did she really think that I didn’t know this was happening? As if my hair would just fall out in clumps evenly spaced. Silver Lining: There is comedy even in your darkest moments.
During the process of my hair falling out, I found that adding a little levity made the experience not only easy for my children to adjust to the change but really helped me adjust to the change too. After a week of having my hair fall out, I decided to have it shaved off. I made an appointment at the place I had gone to order my wig. My mom and my sister-in-law joined me, along with Maggie and Kate. That first buzz of the clippers through my hair was actually quite liberating. I was feeling incredible, like a weight had been lifted. Silver Lining: Being bald was liberating!
When I left the salon, I donned my new wig. Yet, it just wasn’t me. Here I spent a fair amount of money on a wig made of real hair and I wore it all of two times. It was hot, itchy and I felt like I was trying to be someone else. You can see from the group photo below that even my 8 month old, Maggie Mae, thought I looked like someone else. It was then that I decided I would stick to hats and head wraps. Silver Lining: Less is more!
So I stuck to head wraps. If I had to run errands or carpool, on went a head wrap. Usually around the house I didn’t wear anything. I rocked the bald head. It was so easy. No bad hair days. A fraction of the time to get ready in the morning. It was those small silver linings that I was discovering. Then one morning as I was rushing to get the kids to school on time, I jumped in the car and started to back out of the driveway. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t wearing a head wrap and I needed to walk into school to talk to one of the teachers. So I pulled back in so I could run in to grab a wrap. My kids were less than thrilled. They were going to be late. As I explained to them that I didn’t have a head wrap and needed to walk into school, they responded in unison, “SO! Who’s going to care?” It was then that I realized that my kids were proud of me being bald. I threw that car into reverse and onto school I went, proud and bald! Silver Lining: My kids helped me take control. I wasn’t going to let cancer dictate how I should look when I was out in public.
Now don’t get me wrong, their were moments when I got really irritated at the fact that I was bald. One afternoon while waiting in the pharmacy line with my kids to pick up my nausea medicines to help me with the chemo, the lady standing behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me, “what inspired you to shave your head?” Um, did she really just ask me that? I responded, rather irritated, “I was inspired by the chemotherapy I receive every 3 weeks that makes me feel like crap.” My son, Brady, responded in a just as irritated voice, “Yeah, she has cancer!” Let’s just say that lady felt like an idiot. Silver Lining = Brady was proud of the fight I was putting on and he wasn’t going to let anyone get away with such a ridiculous comment.
Yes, I was bald and I was proud of it! It was almost like a badge of honor. If I had to sacrifice my hair so that I could have more time with my family, and it was so worth it! For me it was a constant reminder that the toxic medicines I was putting in my body were working. I was beating my cancer! I encourage you to embrace being bald. It’s only temporary. Before you know it, your hair will be back! Have fun with the process. Life’s too short. No need to stress over not having hair. Live your life. It’s all about discovering the silver linings. Silver Lining: Bald IS beautiful! Bald IS handsome!