Column: Reeling from a haircut

It’s been a week since my hairdresser buzzed my hair off and I still get startled sometimes when I catch my reflection in the mirror.
I had been dreading cutting off my hair for obvious reasons, but my hairdresser (shout out to Jim at Spa Bliss in Charleston) made it fun. He cut my hair first into a mullet before buzzing the rest of it off. I thought I would be crying, but we ended up laughing a lot.
I’ve been wearing baseball caps: a light pink one with the words “girls support girls,” and a gray one with some fitness company’s logo on it. The former was a gift from my sweet co-workers, the latter was a freebie my boyfriend passed along to me.
The head scarves I ordered on Amazon are all in a drawer in my bathroom. I’ve watched a lot of Youtube videos about how to tie them, but I still don’t do it well enough to feel comfortable wearing one while I’m out in public.
Without hair, I look something like a Buddhist monk. My family had a more generous description, comparing me to Demi Moore in “GI Jane.” Frankly, I don’t see it.
I don’t like not having any hair. I don’t like the feel of the tiny hairs as I run my fingers over my head. I don’t like the way my head gets cold sometimes. I definitely do not like the way I look.
I know this is the second column I’m devoting to losing my hair. It may seem trivial to focus on my appearance while I’m facing a life-threatening disease, but breast cancer has such a profound impact on a woman’s body image and appearance that I think it bears repeating.
I’ve been fortunate, so far, that when the surgeon removed my tumor, he left my body looking mostly the same. There’s only a three-inch scar. Some women have one or both breasts removed completely and reconstructed. I know that down the road, should the cancer return, that could be my fate, too.
I’ve ordered a dark, wavy wig. Spa Bliss used a sample of my hair to order a wig in my own hair color.
I’ve never been one to dye my hair bright colors, but I’m going to use the opportunity to play with wig colors and styles. Why not? This is a good time to try out new things.
Besides the haircut, something else that was new happened to me. For the first time, I felt sick from the chemo. Not really sick, but I had enough nausea to have a bad afternoon. I was scared that nausea was going to be my new normal, that I’d never feel well again until after treatment.
With some medication and some rest, though, I’m feeling much better and I’m grateful.
Until then, I didn’t really know what I was up against facing cancer and cancer treatment. Writing about my experience here and on my blog has been a way of processing it for me. People keep telling me that what I’m doing is brave and inspiring, but I don’t see it that way. Writing has been a way for me to remain detached from it, to respond to it like the reporter I am at heart.
But last week when I felt sick, cancer felt so big. Writing felt like a silly and ineffective way of trying to contain it.
I’m going to keep at it, though. I can only hope that someone will get as much out of reading this as I get out of writing it. I still feel like my readers are indulging me. Thank you for that.

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