I became bald at just about 10:30pm on July 25, 2012. Mind you, I was already becoming bald, but the transformation became complete at Brian Blanchard‘s house. Brian is the Chicago “wig guy,” and he and his partner Jeff run quite an operation through both their downtown salon and their suburban spread. I wanted a wig that would look like I’d just gotten my hair cut in order to have some kind of a “normal” experience when I went back to work. What I did not expect was for it to happen all so quickly.
But first, background. This is what my hair looks like:
Right. Thick, beautiful, wavy, long. I’ve never really spent too much time thinking about it — it’s just what I have, but I do know how lucky I am that I have it. Ahem, HAD it.
So, present day. I left the hospital on Thursday, July 12 having just finished my first round of chemo. The following Monday, I realized that I hadn’t paid much attention to my personal grooming, so I got in the shower and set about to shave. Except I realized that I had nothing to shave. No armpit hair, very little leg hair. Huh. My doctor had told me to expect hair loss within 3-5 weeks of my first round. I was experiencing hair loss within 1 week.
I then landed myself in the hospital Weds-Friday of that same week (remember my post Irony?), and on Friday morning ran my hand through my hair. Bad move. I was already feeling freaked out and fragile from the pain killers, and I’d literally just acquired a handful of hair. I know, everyone with long hair has brushed their hair and come away with a full brush. This was a HANDFUL. At least 100 hairs, just lying there in my hand like some freaky, super skinny, garden snakes. And then I made the mistake of doing it again. Without further ado, my hair went into two long braids and I promptly tried to ignore it while still dealing with the side-effects of the pain killers.
By Saturday afternoon, however, my hair had begun to dreadlock. So I pulled out the braids, and brushed it out. Holy fucking shit. Into my sink went an entire head of hair. Seriously, this pile was bigger than my one-year-old cat (granted, the six-pound one, not the 12-pound one, but the point remains). My appointment with Brian wasn’t until Wednesday, and I still had plans to go to work on Monday! For my first day back! When I wanted to look and feel “normal” and not have people stare at me and my dark circles and prednisone puffiness and falling-out hair and bruises and PICC line. My hair was my ONE SALVATION for looking and feeling normal and for the first time in my life it was failing me.
However, that wasn’t until Monday, so I just put it into a bun and tried to forget about it for the rest of the weekend as I continued to try to recover from horse-doses of pain killers. And, by Monday, it was also clear that work was out for the rest of the week, so I stopped freaking out about it. Although the bun by this point had completely dread-locked, and when my mom brushed it out on that Wednesday morning in advance of my appointment with Brian, I lost about six more heads of hair, and my usually resplendent mane was down to what felt like a pony-tail the diameter of a drinking straw.
A note: I hadn’t cut it at all because Brian had told me not to. I’m usually not so good at following instructions, but this time I’m glad I did. At Brian’s house that night, Michael and Ellen and I witnessed him cut down my hair: “this is what it will look like about a year after treatment is complete…this is what it will look like about six months after treatment is complete…this is what it will look like about three months after treatment is complete…” and I’m incredibly grateful we did. Frankly, if I had gone from hair down to my bra-line to bald in one shot I would have probably lost my mind. This way, he eased me into the transition, and finished it with a bang. As he looked at my “three-month” hair, he said: “well, we could either shave it all off now, because, honestly, it’s not going to last another ten minutes, or we could take that ten minutes and give you a mohawk.” Um, obviously.