Well, it’s finally occurred. That moment I’d been dreading most from first receiving the news that I. Had. Cancer.
Almost three weeks into the first round of chemo, I’m shedding. No. That’s not right. It’s much more traumatic and dramatic than that. It’s like my scalp is a jet-liner which is losing altitude quite rapidly, and– in order to give each hair a chance to survive on its own– has decided to jettison ALL of them at once, as if there were tiny little ejection seats at the root of each strand.
I don’t need to tell you how awful this is. I can’t wash it, style it, or touch it without having a HANDFUL of hairs come out. And it’s everywhere….the floor, the tub, my pillow, the back of my Alexander Wang black wool vest that I’m wearing at the moment (thank the gods it’s black and sort of camouflages it unless one observes me from an angle where the light hits it just right).
Scrambling like crazy to find somewhat attractive head coverings that (a) don’t make me look like a nun, sailor, someone attending a costume party, or ‘Mammy” from ‘Gone With the Wind’, and (b) will cover the entire head (no- berets and traditional hats like a fedora, do not fit this bill, unfortunately).
And wigs? Don’t get me started about bloody wigs. If one more person suggests wearing wigs to me, I’m going to punch them. No question. The majority of them are ill-made, fake-looking, and resemble small, unfortunate dead taxidermied rodents. Or large, unfortunate, dead, taxidermied rodents. Scale is the only difference. And I’ve seen some of the other chemo patients come in for their treatments, wearing these things. They’ve succumbed to that heinous societal dictate that forever drives home to women that they are to be appreciated and valued solely for their luxurious locks of hair, their huge breasts, and shapely arses. So, they can never be seen without hair of some sort, even if it’s the fake kind. I feel sorry for them and for their thinking that they must capitulate to the pressure. But I totally understand why they do. And I get angry about it. Which makes me only want to buck it even more. So I will. Bring on the edgy and cool scarves and hats, thanks.
And here’s where breast cancer can really smack a lady up side the head and make her feel like she’s never going to be attractive again. And it’s far worse if she’s single (like me) and looking for a partner/companion/boyfriend/lover: A woman is fighting for her life and she’s losing her hair, and, quite possibly, her breast(s)- two of the hallmarks of femininity and sexiness as dictated by our culture.
Losing one’s hair is accepted in males for the most part. We’re always told that “bald is sexy” on a man….and sometimes, it is. Think Patrick Stewart (STG:TNG) and Avery Brooks (ST:DS9). We are NEVER told that bald can be sexy on a woman. Never. Evah. Hell, those of us with short hair suffer the brunt of both men’s and women’s disdain much of the time, unless those men and women are enlightened, independent thinkers with a more unconventional view/attitude toward what is aesthetically pleasing in a woman. I’m not against longer hair on women, but what I’m really for is more diversity, different aesthetics, more out-of-the-norm….makes life more interesting.
Losing a breast is the other horror. And while we can couch it in terms of being an ‘Amazon’ (a descriptor of which I am particularly fond), we all know that society, particular the male population, does not smile kindly upon breast-less women.
I’ve spent hours beating myself up about these two fears, that– at some times– loom larger over me than any bicephalous monster of my nightmares. And then I think, there’s absolutely nothing to be done about it. All I can do is be the best I can be- strive to be as stylish, kind, generous, empathetic, intelligent, self-aware, and thoughtful as possible. And if society (and men) still judge me harshly for things that are out of my control, insist on valuing me (and other women) only for frigging BODY PARTS, and refuse to see that saving a life is far more important than if there is/are hair or breasts attached to that life, then FUCK THEM. They are, most likely, selfish, daft, unkind, unmannered boors that one wouldn’t want around even if one DID have those body parts back. So, therefore, I look at this as a kind of litmus test: The men who pass are the REALLY GOOD ones, the keepers. The rest are simply chaff to be discarded and disregarded. And that just happens to be the truth of the matter.
Now, on a lighter note, we haven’t discussed the POSITIVES of chemo hair loss. POSITIVES, you say? Why yes!! What are they, you ask? Glad you’re curious.
1. NO unwanted hair in the privates! It’s the least-painless, least time-consuming, least embarrassing Brazilian one will ever know!
2. No more pesky hairs on the upper lip or chin!
3. No more shaving the armpits!
4. Forget about shaving the legs!
Awesomeness times four. And it does compensate a little for the trauma festival going on on top of the skull.
So, as my second chemo infusion approaches on Monday, I will go forth bald (just about everywhere! However, my to-die-for eyebrows had better remain intact or someone’s going to get hurt) and gorgeous, with my fab-u-lous cashmere beanie, my inner strength and courage, and with piss and vinegar.
The saga continues……