It’s not your identity. It’s just that stuff that grows out of your head.
Until you know you can’t have it anymore. Then it takes on a sentience and emotional depth that both seem ridiculous. Except, you know, when they’re absolutely NOT ridiculous and you know your hair is going to go.
Right before they realized they had spoken too soon, my main oncologists told me I would not need chemo. So, to celebrate, I took my naturally curly hair for a reverse perm. We curly-headed people envy that pin straight hair we see on our comrades. We think it must be so manageable, so easy, so slick. We want the glam, straight hair!
See, I even added the sort of glamorous looking cat. To this day, I think he must have been able to smell cancer.
When I was bald, I swore that I would “go forth and sin no more,” hair wise. No chemical straighteners. No wishing for hair other than mine. I vowed to appreciate the hair I had, as soon as I had it again. I also decided to just let it grow. And grow. And grow.
That’s pretty much how long it gets.
Key point: I live in a desert. Second key point: I have hot flashes. 115 degrees with long hair? A night sweat with long hair? I’ve spent the last couple of years wearing ponytails.
But that hair became almost a superstition, as if I had taken every ounce of the “bargaining with God” portion of serious illness, and transferred it into my hair. If I were ever accused of vanity in my life, it would have been about work. Not hair. Not anything appearance related.
But, after 6 months of people damn near staring and pointing when I went out in public, okay, I had a thing for the hair.
Approaching year 5 (come on, May!), when remission turns into freedom, I’m starting to let go of some of the post-cancer neuroses. My hair should be comfortable and flattering. Not just a tribute to hair for its own sake. 🙂 I’ve spent so much time reclaiming my body, or meeting it for the first time, that it seems silly to have held onto my long hair as a talisman to ward off any future cancer.
Until this past weekend.
Growing my hair endlessly won’t stop me from ever getting sick again. And it certainly won’t make it so that it never happened to begin with. Nothing will un-ring that bell.
And now it’s not winding, snake like, across my throat while I sleep.
So, it’s Monday. Is hair the be all and end all of deep meaning? No.
But we all make strange deals to cope with what we experience. That long hair was mine. Oddly enough, people in the grocery store stared just as much and still felt compelled to ask questions, even when I wasn’t bald. “Is your hair naturally curly?” Or, my favorite, “Is that your real hair?” No one asked that on the rare occasions I wore a wig.
It’s still symbolic, though. I’m finally accepting my wellness – growing comfortable with it, not thinking every sniffle is a return of cancer – and with that comes assurance. I will never be able to feel that I have control over my physicality again, not the way I did before. But I have a new body, a new strength, a new learning curve. And that can be just as miraculous, the second time around.
Happy Monday, and blessings to you all…