If you caught yesterday’s post then you know I’ve got a sinus cold. Well, I’m better and will take it easy today. Yesterday however, even in my rough and miserable state, I decided to try an experiment.
Though I don’t list it in the “About jEN” blurb on the sidebar, I am a cancer survivor. I’m fortunate and grateful, but I don’t typically wear the title on my sleeve. My battle was won fairly swiftly and without much grief. Ridiculous as it sounds, I almost feel guilty over it. I had cervical cancer with signs of lymph-vascular invasion, the doctors took out all my internal girlie bits but spared the ovaries (relocated them to a nice retirement complex in my upper abdomen), and life goes on. No radiation; no chemotherapy. I am the poster child for a perfect procedure.
Except for my hair.
There are likely combined reasons for the hair loss, but none can be pinned on cancer treatment. The relocation of my ovaries was likely a contributor, but the utter body shock and stress relating to both a hugely invasive surgery (I still can’t get over the fact my guts were on a tray) and the emotions stemming from the ordeal are more likely suspects. Oh, and that my marriage was beginning to crumble and my work life was feeling more like a trap (thanks to health insurance and my delightful new classification as a ‘pre-existing condition’ should I make a career change). Hair loss is often the product of stress and my cancer was not likely the most significant reason for mine.
It’s been four years+ since my surgery and I am healthy as can be. (Ignore the cold I have this week and that I could lose about 10 pounds.) Several things have changed in that time span: I recovered, I fell in love, quit my job, divorced, moved overseas, remarried, and have been taking on two new career directions. These things are not for the faint of heart. Shit, I never thought I’d be brave enough for it all. Yet, yesterday I did something that I thought was almost braver still: after a shower, I combed my clean, wet hair in a way that fully exposed my ‘bald’ area. It’s growing back slowly and without medication, but it’s a daily concern of mine. Is it covered? Can anyone see through my hair? Do I look normal? It’s interesting that the girl who is perfectly comfortable sporting bright blue hair and tattoos would worry about what a bald spot looks like. I guess if it were a bald spot by choice (like some punk haircut), I could be confident in letting it show, but because it’s an uncontrollable flaw… You know what I mean.
Well, yesterday I decided to confront it as I’ve never done before. I parted my hair and let it dry that way, fully revealing the flawed patch, which is several inches long by almost 2 wide. It’s covered in downy new hair, not unlike an infant’s head, but it’s far from attractive. It could be several more years before I can part my hair this way in public, but it is growing back. Slowly, it’s coming back.
My life is settling into a routine finally. It’s been a stressful four years on so many levels. I woke up today feeling a little bit better (I can breathe, which is a good start) and the first thing I saw in the mirror was my still parted hair revealing a large thin patch of baby fine velvet. As I sit here typing, I’ve reached up and stroked the new growth. It’s soft, new – accessible. The regrowth has been slow, but the changes I’ve made in my life haven’t been quick or easy for the last four years. The process on my scalp reflects that struggle – mirrors it. Although I won’t be wearing my hair this way publicly, I’m at least more comfortable with it privately. There is no avoidance of mirrors; not for hair loss or the life I’ve chosen.