June 18, 2010
There. I did it.
This picture shows me one month after I finished chemo. Peach fuzz growing. Eyebrows gone. Eyelashes gone. Both pencilled in to hide their absence.
This is the only picture I have of myself bald. When I was a shiny cue ball it never occurred to me to document it. If you look closely at my left eye, you’ll see a tear resting on my lower lid. I had just stopped crying. Long enough to put on makeup and flash that killer smile. I was just about to get my tissue expanders out and have my silicone implants put in. It was right before my 38th birthday. That’s what I told my plastic surgeon I wanted for my birthday– to be done with that next phase of my reconstruction.
It was hard to go in for that particular surgery at that particular time in my treatment regimen. When the staff came to wheel me in I had to remove my scarf. My surgeon hadn’t seen me bald. The nurses, my father, my doctor… all of them saw my head then. Of course it was run of the mill for them. They saw cancer patients all the time. But for me it was another way my dignity, my identity, my humanity were being stripped from me. I donned the fabric shower cap gladly, happy to have something (albeit flimsy) to conceal my naked head.
Only moments before, I stood in the bathroom with my plastic surgeon while he marked my body once more with his ubiquitous purple Sharpie pen. We talked again about final details of my breasts. I realized how these conversations had become so routine between us. While the subject of my breasts was no longer one that even caused a pause in chatter for us, I didn’t want him to see my head. Somehow it was more personal, more private, more embarrassing to me than the fact that he not only saw, but touched, drew on, and even photographed my breasts on a regular basis during reconstruction. Those interactions were scripted. Defined. But my head? I hadn’t realized he was going to see that. And there was embarrassment there. It wasn’t happening on my terms.
So today I am taking control and doing it on my terms. When Melissa Etheridge performed bald at the Grammys in 2005 (before I was even diagnosed) I remember thinking, “She is strong. She is real. She is brave. She is beautiful.” What she did in that moment was important. I bet it was liberating to her. So I’m going to try it. It’s too late for me to try it in reality (and I don’t want to pull a Britney Spears and shave my new hair off to be bald again).
Today1 is the 2 year anniversary of the day I finished chemo. So, in celebration, I’m taking off my metaphorical scarf. I’m going bald here today. I want to see how it feels.
- June 18, 2010 [↩]