I had learned from my support group that EVERYONE’S hair falls out by the 15th day AFTER one starts chemotherapy. I heard what they were saying, but my mind would not accept this fact. When I found out that I was going to lose my hair, I cried like a little baby. No, I actually sobbed and sobbed. This could not possibly happen to me! Deep down in my heart, I knew that I was going to have to make my decision to shave my head, or not, and whether to donate my hair, or not. My hair was down to my waist, and my hair had been this long for almost 25 years. I absolutely LOVED my hair! It was my crowning glory. I kept it a golden blonde, and my Mom always told me that my hair looked like spun gold. I always kept those words close since she had passed away in 1996. So when I found out my hair was going to fall out, I felt like I was going to lose my Mom allover again! I know that sounds stupid, but that is how I felt, and it literally made me sick to my stomach.
My support group met every Tuesday. This particular Tuesday was day #13 for me. As we were discussing loss of hair that particular day, I piped up and said that I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE MY HAIR! Everyone rolled their eyes, and tried to convince me that I must prepare myself. So what did I do to prove them wrong? I grabbed a huge handful of hair and pulled as hard as I could right in front of everyone. I said, “See, my hair is not going to come out! It is not even budging!” Several women told me that it was going to happen and I only had a day or two to make peace with it. At that moment, I was still not convinced. When I left that day and walked to the car where my husband was waiting, I told him about what happened. He said, “Connie, you know it is going to happen! Are you going to just let it fall out?”
At that moment, I knew he was right. I knew all of my support group was right. And I knew that I was going to have to make a decision FAST if I was going to maintain some sort of control over the issue. See, I had been told stories of women waking up on Day #14 or Day #15 and finding clumps of their hair all over the pillow. That was just repulsive to me. I do not like hair on the sink or in the sink or even in my brushes. I always keep it cleaned up. My hair was almost two feet long, and the vision of waking up and finding two foot long clumps of hair on my pillow almost made me throw up. At that moment, fear really set in. I knew I could not deal with hair all over my pillow. I had too much to deal with already, and my life was so out of control. I had to make the choice. Really, it was not a real choice. It was actually the lesser of two evils!
So, as we left the parking lot, I took out my cellphone and called the hair salon and asked for Kai. In the lobby of the support group meeting room, there is a notebook binder that has lists of businesses that offer free services for anyone going through cancer. I had found a salon weeks earlier, and placed a call just to see what the procedure was, just in case I decided to have my head shaved. I had talked to Kai, one of the stylists. Now here I was, in a really tight spot! I had not made an appointment weeks earlier because I had convinced myself that my hair was not going to fall out. Now, if everyone was right, I only had TWO DAYS to take control of this situation! I was, all of sudden, totally terrified! Kai told me she had no appointments open that afternoon. I was now beginning to panic. I told her the situation. She put me on hold for a few minutes, and came back and said she would squeeze me in on Wednesday, but it would be after 2:00P.M. I told her I did not care about the time, and graciously thanked her over and over for squeezing me in! Now here I was, thankful that I had control back and would be making my own decision instead of letting the cancer do the deciding for me. I had hoped to get an appointment while we were in Santa Cruz on Tuesday so we would not have to drive back the 60+ miles round trip every time we go into Santa Cruz. But my husband said he did not mind bringing me back the next day, so it was settled. We would drive back in to Santa Cruz on Wednesday to get my head shaved!
When we got home on Tuesday evening, I decided what I wanted to do before I got my head shaved. I had Jeff charge the camera battery so that it would be ready on Wednesday. I was going to get up earlier on Wednesday and take pictures for the last time of my two foot long hair. We also decided that we would video the entire process of Kai shaving my head. I felt like the recording would make me feel powerful and in control of my circumstances. I also wanted it as a lasting reminder of my hair. Once again, I could not sleep that night because another huge change was coming and there was absolutely NOTHING I could do about it. I was going to shave my head, and that was final. There was no turning back now. As I laid there most of the night, I tried to envision the whole process of what I was going to do. I got all of it worked out in my mind, and sometime in the early hours, I managed to fall asleep for just a couple of hours.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
TODAY IS THE DAY! By 3:00P.M. I will be BALD! I was not, in any way, excited. If anything, I was quite apprehensive. But, I am a realist. I knew that by the end of today I was going to be bald. I really had no idea how I was going to cope with my new look or if I would even be able to look at myself in the mirror. I do not consider myself a vain person. Losing my hair had absolutely nothing to do with how I would look or how other people would look at me. It was more of a separation from something I had been attached to for more than 25 years. I just did not know how I was going to handle being bald after having my beautiful hair for all of my life. I had always had this hair. I was born blonde, and I had platinum blonde hair until I was 25 years old. I do remember crying when my hair started to change color. Again, it was not vanity. It was just that I had always had that color of hair, and I did not know what to expect without it. And here I was again, at 61 years old, going through much the same emotions, but on a much larger scale.
As I woke up on this particular day, I did look down on my pillow to see if there was anything there. NOPE! No clumps of hair. I felt some jubilation at this discovery. But it was short-lived. I got up and went into the bathroom. I grabbed a comb and started to comb my hair. The first sweep of my hair was on the left front side of my head. I am left-handed, so the first thing I do is run the comb across the left side. Just as I did that, about 50 strands of 24 inch long blonde hair came out of my head. I knew, in that exact moment, that I had made the right decision and I had just barely made it in the nick of time! I did not even dare run the comb through the rest of my hair. It was only 11:00A.M. and my appointment was not for another 3 hours. But I was afraid if I combed my hair I would not even have enough to get it shaved. Of course, this was a stupid notion on my part, but I was not about to tempt fate. I quickly dressed and ran downstairs to find Jeff. I told him what happened, and told him to get the video. We were going in the back yard and take pictures of my head full of hair before anything else happened.
I grabbed a huge french blue quilt and spread it out on the back deck. I then laid down on the quilt with all of my hair spread across the quilt. I had Jeff photograph and video my hair from different angles and different positions. We actually had a fun time doing this. We were both trying to be as positive as possible and see this as a good thing. I really need all of his support, especially on a day like today. As always, he was totally there for me. He did everything I asked and never questioned my motives. He just let me direct the entire day. He knew deep down I was having a very difficult time, even if I was not showing it. I do have to say it was a relief to have him supporting me and giving me the courage to get through one of the most difficult days to date.
DONATING MY HAIR
We got to the salon a few minutes early. We parked in the back, and Jeff grabbed the video and the tripod. We only waited a few minutes, and Kai came to get us. As Jeff set up the video, Kai and I had a discussion about how all this was going to happen. I had previously told her that I wanted to donate my hair to “Locks of Love” and this salon did partake in this program. Yeah! I also had researched and found out that most women just put their hair in a ponytail and have it cut off. That seemed like such a waste for me, especially since my hair was so long. So in those wee hours of the morning, I had decided I wanted Kai to divide my hair into 4 quarter section ponytails and cut my hair as close as possible to the scalp. When I discussed this with her, she was in total agreement. I was so relieved! Oh, and I had made one more decision in those wee hours. I wanted a 2 foot long section of my hair cut as a souvenir. So when she started sectioning my hair, she actually made 4 large ponytails and 1 skinny one on the very top that she cut and gave to me. Jeff had the video ready to go, and then it was time. I asked Kai to turn me toward the mirror. I had decided that I wanted to watch the entire process. I did not want to be surprised by going from a full head of hair to a completely bald head. So Jeff turned on the video, Kai picked up her scissors, and SNIP! The first was my souvenir ponytail. No problem! Then I took a deep breath because I knew the next snip would be 1/4 of my head of hair. SNIP! It was done! This is one of those things that once it is done, it is done. There is no going back. But I knew I had no other option. This was the RIGHT DECISION for me. Kai asked if I was alright. I told her I was O.K. Go ahead. No pun intended! She snipped three more times, and she handed me each ponytail as she cut it off. I now had four ponytails two feet long in my hands. As I sat there looking at all of my hair, I thought what a beautiful wig it would make for someone else that needed hair that was going to go through the same thing I was going through. I smiled a little smile, because I knew in my heart of hearts that some other woman or young girl would be blessed with a gorgeous wig! Then I looked in the mirror and kind of giggled a nervous giggle. I still had all of my bangs, but the rest of my head only had about an inch of hair on it. That was a very strange feeling. But knowing that I could not go back, I just had to accept it right then and there. Kai then asked me if I wanted her to style and cut that one inch into a super short haircut or did I want it shaved? She also wanted to know if I wanted her to leave my bangs. NOPE! I had already made the decision that I wanted my head totally shaved. Even with super, super short hair, it will still continue to fall out on your pillow. I just did not want to deal with that aspect of losing my hair. Since I was eventually going to be bald anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and “JUST DO IT!!!” So Kai picked up the buzzer and within less than 5 minutes, I WAS TOTALLY BALD!!!!!
I did not shed a single tear during the whole ordeal of getting my hair cut off and my head shaved! I was quite surprised at myself. I had been teary eyed the day before every time I thought about it. But like I said, I am a realist. I can acknowledge when things need to be done and why they need to be done. This was one of those situations. Everyone in the salon told me how cute I looked and how brave I was to go through such a thing. I felt good about my decision and Jeff had gotten it all on video. I do have to admit I did not look half bad! My head was perfectly shaped and my ears were not too big. And the two best parts of the whole ordeal—–#1. I did not have to pay for my experience (no charge for all the services) and the best part #2. One, maybe two women or young girls would get a beautiful wig!!!! I was really proud of that. If I was going to have to go through this, then I was going to pay it forward! And that is exactly what I did! I made my decision to shave my head and to donate my hair! I actually danced out of the salon. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. This decision was over – THANK GOD!