I got a package in the mail today. It was kind of creepy. I ordered it myself and I knew what was inside. Still creepy. With trepidation, I opened the padded envelope and found an entire head of hair.
They tell me I’ll lose my hair after my first cycle of chemotherapy. Now, y’all, I don’t consider myself to be a vain person (I’m learning I’m much more vain than I ever realized) and I just figured when I go bald, I’ll wear hats. Hats are cute; I like hats.
Then I started thinking. In addition to my kids requesting that I get a wig, I realized that if I don’t have one, everyone everywhere will know that I have or have had cancer. It’s not a fact I care to hide, but it’s also not my favorite topic of discussion. And so, I ordered.
The wig is cute. On a stand. On my head, mmmm, maybe. At the moment, I’m just trying to be as prepared as I can, since I likely won’t care much to be shopping once my hair falls out and I’m a puddle of tears.
Losing my hair is a harder thought for me than losing my breasts. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. I think part of it has to do with dignity–women my age aren’t meant to be bald. We rarely are bald, and in fact spend quite a bit of time in the pursuit of good hairstyles. Something given at birth is being stripped away against my will. I realize mastectomy will also strip something away, but it’s different. That part of me is shielded from view and protected. My head is just right out there, seen by the world.
Enter vanity. Or rather, expose vanity. I don’t think it’s wrong that I feel grief at losing my hair–not at all. However, it WILL grow back. Maybe it will be even better! And yet, that’s not a comfort. I’m still stuck.
I think, at the core, this is an issue of surrender. I have come to terms at the moment with having cancer (this is something I know I will have to do time after time in the next year). I have come to terms with surgery and mastectomy, and I am willing. My hair, on the other hand, is something to which I’m clinging. Perhaps it’s as simple as having my outside be as exposed as my soul feels right now. Maybe it all comes down to vulnerability. When I walk around now, my battle is private. Strangers, and many people I know, aren’t aware of my situation. In due course, it will be glaringly apparent to the world.
Maybe I’m not ready for that. But I’m working on it.