243/366: On Losing Hair to Cancer

My mother doesn’t dress up. She doesn’t wear make-up (except for a little bit of foundation and mascara when she goes to a wedding) and her hair has been short since I was a baby. There are once-upon-a-time photos of her with long hair, but I don’t think she kept it that way for very long.

She last had it cut on May 19 and was incensed that the price jumped from $17 to $27 since her previous visit three months before. But that is not why she was breathless when she left the salon and returned to her car. That was the day the lung clots almost stopped the blood flow to her heart.

Now her bangs are growing out, masking the creases in her forehead.

The other day, she stated the simple fact that she doesn’t need to get it trimmed because she is going to lose it to the chemo, anyway. She said this with cool indifference, having already dismissed the notion of wearing a wig. Instead, she will wear a hat, like some of the other women we see in the waiting room in her oncologist’s office.

She has never been concerned with vanity, so I cannot explain why the thought of her losing her hair bothers me somehow. Maybe it is because, in truth, chemotherapy terrifies me. I am afraid to look at her one day soon and and see sunken eyes and pasty skin and bald head, not because it is unattractive but because it would be evidence of something else, something darker.

The mother I have known all my life has been healthy, strong, and vibrant, and it is jarring to see her in any way different or weakened. I am afraid the chemotherapy will steal bit by bit the things that make her her—not merely her hair but her wonderful laugh, her curiosity to try new things, her generous heart. It will make her too sick to be those things anymore. I know that the treatment might bring her to the brink of death in order to (possibly) save her, and I am afraid for her. I wish my gentle soul of a mother did not have to don full battle armor and summon all her strength to defeat this enemy. I wish we could just press fast-forward to the day of celebration when there is no more toxic medicine dripping into her port and she has been declared cancer-free forever and ever. She will turn her head this way and that in slow-motion and her hair will bounce on her shoulders in loose, glorious curls, just like in a commercial.

And we’ll live in Neverland and no one will ever grow old.

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15 thoughts on “243/366: On Losing Hair to Cancer

  1. Your mother is lucky to have a daughter who loves her so much. Reading your post made me cry for I could feel the pain of you and your mother. I am so sorry that she has to put on her battle gear to fight, but you will be there to watch her back. Blessings and strength to you both. Jamie 🙂

  2. As I had told you before… my scare came a little before yours. My mothers clots went from her leg to the lungs and defibrillated her heart. The feeling of almost losing this vibrant person from my life can not be put into words here…. my understanding and thoughts are with you.

    • So appreciate your understanding & good thoughts, Mike. Thank you. And thank goodness your mother survived that. Many people with emboli aren’t as lucky as we were!

  3. Don’t over-think the effects of chemo. Your mum will probably sail through it – I am! There are remedies for each and every side effect, and no need to suffer at all. It’s completely different to the terror we have been told. That was how things were 20 years ago. It’s moved on exponentially since then.
    I don’t feel diminished by my cancer treatment. I feel changed, but in a good way. Revitalized, renewed, more alive in the present moment. It will be the same for your mum.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to offer these words of encouragement. I am happy to hear that you are progressing so smoothly through your treatment—not just enduring it but THRIVING. Wow! Much, much appreciated. All the best on your way to victory!

  4. Your mom is an awesome lady. I know it’s a new road without a GPS, but the difficult voyages she has been on to get her here made her who she is. Nothing can take that away from her, and when she feels better that smile will be BIGGER than ever! Oh, and tell her when she needs her next hairdo, I still charge the same as 1990.

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