By Taylor Eames
Facebook memories are a wonderful thing, aren’t they? A few days ago, it reminded me that I lost my hair a year ago. I reread what I had written that day, and tears came to my eyes as I remembered the emotional impact this moment in my life had on me. Let me share what I wrote on April 8, 2016:
“Last night, kind of suddenly, my hair started coming out in fist fulls. I went from having a firm grip on my hair to it coming out so easily almost within minutes. It hit me hard. The thought of waking up and finding clumps of hair on my pillow gave me an anxiety attack. So we did what most do during this phase in chemo and shaved it off. It was a very heartbreaking moment in this journey. I never expected it to affect me that greatly. Yes, it’s only hair and it will grow back. But I feel a huge part of my femininity was taken from me. Also, everyone’s looks change drastically when their hair changes. I wept as my mom took the clippers to my head. Actually we all did. My mom cutting my hair, my sister on skype [in San Francisco], Annie [my daughter] (who’s in Michigan visiting her dad) also on video chat. We all just cried. We had joked about the shaving of the head being a fun occasion, but it wasn’t. It was like mourning a loss. Yes it’s only hair, yes it will grow back. But it still hurt me to the core. It will take some getting used to. Eventually it will be the new normal. Maybe later, after I get up for the day, shower, put some makeup on, and don a cute hat, I’ll shar
e a picture. But I have to allow myself to feel the full gamut of emotions or I’ll implode.”
I remember after the shave, I went to my room and cried some more. Then I didn’t want anyone to see me for a while. I hid in my room as my family continued their lives. Finally, the next day I was forced to emerge from my solitary sanctuary and rejoin society. This time as a bald cancer warrior. Now I wore my badge, now everyone knew I was fighting cancer, I was getting chemo. Now people looked at me differently. Some with pity, some with admiration, and some with wonder. Some stared, some purposely would not make eye contact. And then there were the ones who boldly asked where I was in treatment and how I was taking it. I didn’t know how to react to that. Was it rude of them to ask or was it nice of them to make conversation with me and treat me like a normal person? I guess I didn’t have anything to hide, so I was glad to talk to people instead of getting strange looks.
Later on in treatment, I was at a waterpark with my family. I wore a cute floppy bucket hat for the most part because chemo makes you more susceptible to the sun, and my bald head was sensitive. But we live in Arizona and this was the end of July where temps average 115 from day to day. At one point, I was laying in a wading pool watching my kids play, and I decided to take my hat off because it was making me sweat. (Don’t worry, I was slathered in sunscreen!) It only took a few seconds for kids to start looking at me strange. Eventually, one little girl splashed up to me and said, “Why your hair like that?” My daughter protectively said that I have an illness and the medicine makes my hair fall out. She looked at me with concern and said, “You ok?” I smiled and said, “Yes! Thank you!” That satisfied her curiosity. She smiled back and she happily splish splashed away.
I lost my hair in April, and it barely started growing back in September. I kept my head covered in public with hats or bandanas until December. Like I said, I didn’t think not having hair was going to affect me so much, but it does change everything about the way you look and the way people look at you. I wasn’t comfortable braving the bare look outside of the home, but others are. Some do just fine with the shaving of the head, some even celebrate it. And some mourn the loss, like I did.
Whatever the reaction to losing your hair, it’s yours. No one can understand what you are going through unless they have experienced it themselves. Yes, it will eventually grow back, but the fact is your look is changed for at least 2 years. It’s not just hair. Regardless of how you handle it, just remember you are braver than you know.
Taylor Eames is a single mom of four living in Yuma, Arizona, who was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma in January of 2016. She openly chronicled her experience during treatment and continuing through the aftermath on TaylorTough on Facebook. Taylor is one of the founders of Breast Cancer Sisters along with her dear friend, Kristy Irizarry.