I’ve not shed my last tears over my hair loss. Hopefully the last ones will be Sunday. That’s when I shear my noggin. I’ve invited a few close important people to see me through it.
I had a hard time processing my emotions on going bald. Well, some of the emotions were hard, others were simple. But the transition has been the difficult part, as always.
I have said this before: I’ve always known I’d get cancer. Its never been a doubt, and with that came the acceptance of hair loss. Maybe don’t tell my mom, but I think that’s why I’ve always embraced keeping long hair. Something about not having to go through chemo-induced balding meant that I wanted the polar opposite for as much as possible.
I have known this was coming. And yet I’ve been agonizing over the hair loss this week.
You see, I’m attending a wedding on the 20th with my husband. I am looking forward to people watching since I don’t know the bride at all, and Nick is friends with the groom. The ceremony was at the beautiful basilica and the reception is in the same place I married Nick. So I really wanted to attend. See some beautiful things, relive happy memories, hear about love, celebrate and share in someone else’s happiness, escape into someone else’s celebration of life and love. Hold onto the good things in life that I get to share with strangers. Somehow that promise felt very healing.
(There were live violinists accompanying our cocktail hour with some classic romantic melodies. I’m very close to crying happy tears with how magical this wedding is.)
This occasion could be one of two things for my hair. It could have been the last hurrah with my natural hair for a long time. Or it could have been the debut of my hairless or wig chapter in life. I had a hard time differentiating what I really wanted, and I never figured it out because I kept telling myself that if I could make my hair last until Saturday, then it would be the last hurrah. If my hair gave up before then, then it would be my debut. But I guess now, if I’m honest, I really wanted this to be my farewell.
My dilemma came from the distress of loosing bunches and clumps after I scratched an itch. Or showered. Or rested my head against the back of a chair. Or slept. Or caught a breeze. Any and every movement subtracted strands. And every time it made me sad to see them go.
Think of saying goodbye to a friend over and over again. Only for another friend to follow right behind. And another.
Soon it also got to be off-putting, as in, gross. Don’t you hate cleaning wads of hair from sink drains? The wet and goop clinging to a mass of tangled body hair? Disgusting. It would have been easy to dwell on that similarity and let it make me nauseous. (But if you recall, I do not throw up.) So I resolved to not touch my head as much as possible.
The exception was driving. I found that running my fingers through my hair and letting the wind carry it off immediately made me feel free. It resembled the satisfaction of picking scabs. Plus it also actually soothed my sore hair follicles. Even with short hair, hair that weighed much less than the locks that stretched to my bum, the weight of each hair was agony for the corresponding follicle. My scalp screamed for relief. So I indulged when it wouldn’t gross me out.
(Alternatively, I’m certain some people following behind my car were gagging with disgust as clump after clump of hair drifted behind my car. I am also positive that I could feel prayers for me from someone unknown who recognize what was happening to me. That was nice, and the memory makes me cry a little bit.)
Another thing; I realized that I was making a mess. My house, my office, my clothes were covered in sad little strands if not clumps of lost hair. The constant cleanup was taxing. I knew from this that I would like to shave my head soon to have this transition be over and done with as soon as possible. That was Wednesday night.
(I said as much to Nick during Wednesday ablutions, and the problem solver he is asked if I wanted to do it right now. Tonight. My jaw dropped and tears sprung to my eyes. He recognized that definite no, and we laughed off the anxious energy that sprang up in that instant.)
I confessed to Nick that I needed some support to go through with the shave. I wanted my mom there, but I didn’t want only my mom because she would only weep, and then I would bawl. I wanted George there to watch and participate so he wouldn’t be afraid of me bald; you’ve seen videos of babies crying at their freshly shaved dads, yeah I do not need that. I wanted Nick there, because I need to see that he still loves me different. I wanted my girlfriends there because if anyone can hype me up sans hair, its them. I wanted my brothers with their dark humor there because if ever there was a time for a joke to break some sad tension, its when you’re shaving your head bald and your mom’s melting into tears. Any way. I was having trouble deciding who I should invite over.
Thursday morning arrived with a simple revelation. Invite everyone. Make it a little impromptu celebration. I texted everyone. It was 7 AM.
Immediately I received reassurance and support. My village is here to support me. That confirmation felt so good. We’d gather on Sunday at 2 and say goodbye to the parts of me that made me sad. We could also get the shock of bald Brianna out of the way for almost all the people I see regularly.
The only trouble now, is holding out until Sunday at 2. Could I keep enough hair intact to attend a fancy wedding as I was rapidly dropping locks? That was a tall order I set for myself, but I managed it.
I took a shower and washed my hair Friday night in a misguided attempt to have hair ready to style on Saturday. So. Much. Hair. Gone all at once. I could see actual bald spots, but thankfully they were by my temples; hidden under the hair growing from the hairline.
I tied my fragile little remaining hair into skinny little pigtails so I could sleep.
I woke and they were a tangled matted mess. I decided to tackle them with a straightener with every mental health coping skill I had in my arsenal. Upbeat music- check. Timer- check. Dance it out- check. Be silly- check. Reframing my thoughts with positive wording- check. Outside or fresh air- check. Clean space set up for success- check. It took an hour to create a very mediocre bob style. Usually I could’ve managed the same straightened look in the dark, without any mirrors, in under 5 minutes. I was sweating from the effort! I finally acomplished every hair straight, then I just needed to arrange it to cover all the bald spots. My hair and I had some backwards progress. I used too much hairspray. It made it wet and straggly all along the part. It was not a good look. I fretted because if I brushed it out, then I could kiss every last hair on the top of my head goodbye and say hello to a center part a centimeter wide. Yikes.
I took a hand mirror to examine the crown of my head. Double yikes. That’s when it struck me. I recalled an infomercial from 2016 that I saw while running on a treadmill at Fitness 19. It was selling an airbrush makeup kit. Balding clients with dark hair, and women with gray roots were airbrushing color into their scalp to disguise the change in hair. Thank you past Brianna for storing that hack for today’s Brianna.
I didn’t have an air brush, but don’t I use powder to fill in my eye brows? What’s the difference? Absolutely nothing! Apply dark eye shadow directly to the scalp.
I looked great.
(I actually looked very average, but I felt spectacular.)
Makeup is sorcery. I am a sorceress and a conqueror. Plus I didn’t cry.
Oh also, by the way. I had a nurse visit me that Saturday morning, and I didn’t even cry. I had no anxiety before, during or after the procedure, and no panic attack. Do you even KnOw how gOOd that feeLS!? Honey, if you do, good on you. But oh darlin, if you’ve never suffered this triumph, let me emphasize that it is very nice.
We attended the wedding, we celebrated the happy couple, we ate and sang, and my hair looked perfectly average. I was so proud of myself. This is literally the first weekend of August where I didn’t have a mental breakdown on Saturday. Let’s see if Sunday can’t repeat the feat.
I was melancholy instead of anxious or irritable about it because I was so acutely aware of each sensation and how it contrasted with the others.
The week had dragged on with this indecisive emotional turmoil; I am ready for it to be Sunday already. As I write this sentence, I still have some hair. The last strong soldiers to see me through the transition.
I thank these little bits of my identity and wish them a speedy recovery. Rest for now, we’re just prioritizing other healing.
And growing a baby. We’re prioritizing my unborn child over the hair that grows on my head. Perspective.
It’s okay to be sad, and I will be, but I am hopeful that I’ll like the sleek new look.
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