Sunday morning as I showered and washed my hair, large chunks of the hair fell out, and some loose gobs got stuck in the hair that was still attached to my head, creating gigantic snarls. My hair had been falling out for several days, and I had been expecting the Big Follicle Flop, but people kept saying that maybe this type of chemotherapy for breast cancer would just make the hair get “thin.” Why do I listen to such optimism?
Morgan, Dan, Peyton, and Andie came over for Sunday brunch, and after we ate, I asked Morgan if she would shave my head.
“You still have hair!” John said. I bent over so he could see the rather inventive comb over that didn’t quite hide my bald spots, and he said, “Oh. I see.”
So I went to get the clippers, towel, and newspapers to spread around the kitchen floor, and Morgan went to get the little girls. I wanted them to be a part of the head shaving, so they wouldn’t be shocked to see me bald after they had just seen me with hair. (Hardly shocked, as you can see at right. Peyton is yielding the clippers as Andie watches.) They thought it was great fun to see my hair fall all around me, and Peyton teased me, saying that I looked like a boy wearing earrings. Then she lit on the hilarious joke of calling me Grandpa instead of Grandma. Ten minutes later, you would have thought that I had never had hair, and they just accepted the new me.
Morgan went up to the closet where I keep the kids’ dress-up clothes and found the old wig I had worn went I lost my hair to chemo fifteen years ago. If I’m going to wear a wig, it’s not going to be that one. It’s blonde, short, and comes to a point at the top.
My friend Enid went with me to Mayo a few weeks ago, and during a lull in between appointments, we went to look at wigs, in case. Apparently wigs don’t come in the red hair color I have (er, had), because the woman brought out a blonde wig for me to try on.
“She doesn’t have blonde hair,” said Enid.
“Yes she does,” said the woman. There was another wig, with a brunette base and red highlights at the ends. Somehow it didn’t do the trick. We left. Meanwhile, my sister knitted me two caps and I am using them to keep my head warm.
My sister and I were bemoaning our hair troubles. When you grow up with a thick head of curly red, red hair, you tend to get cocky. You don’t have to fuss with your hair in the morning. It’s wash and wear. You don’t need rollers, curling irons, products to make your hair thicker or curlier or shinier. You take it for granted that you’ll always have wonderful hair in a color that no one else has.
Then you start to age. You find gray in your hair. You notice the color isn’t as vibrant. You wash your hair and you have to fiddle with it to get it to do what it always did on its own. And the unfortunate thing is that when all the other girls were learning how to do stuff to their hair, you weren’t paying attention, so now you are at a distinct disadvantage. In fact, your hair sometimes looks…dumb. Sometimes you have it dyed and you look like a stop sign. Sometimes you look like cinnamon toast. Every hairdresser has a different idea of what red hair looks like, and the hair color companies don’t make the color you used to have naturally.
Oh, well. But now I’m bald, and I get to start all over. Last time, when my hair started to grow in, it looked like cellophane noodles – thin and transparent. I was horrified. Then gradually, some color returned, but not enough for me to unfriend Carolyn, my colorist.
I’m hoping that in six months or so I’ll have enough hair to require a comb. But for now, when you see me, please don’t say, “Aren’t you hot in that hat?” Because I’m not. And if my eyebrows fall out, don’t say, “You look surprised!” Because I won’t be surprised, I’ll just not know how to paint on fake eyebrows. And I know they say that the longer people live together the more they tend to resemble each other, but please don’t say, “Oh, for a minute I thought you were John!”