June 14, 2012
How would people describe you physically?
The man at the counter with blue eyes. The girl with the bounce in her walk. Maybe, but it is usually…the blonde, cute short cut or long brown hair. Hair, we are usually described by hair.
I never thought much about how people would describe me physically, until I was facing moving from the woman “with long dark hair” into the “bald cancer patient”.
It was only a few months ago that I needed to step in during a rehearsal as someone’s sponsor and the 8th grader told her mother later that evening “it was your friend from the office with pretty long hair”. Huge praise from a 13 year old. Now I remember moments like that as grace filled God moments to strengthen me.
When I was diagnosed and praying over decisions between surgery and chemo, a dear friend was praying with her 7 year old son for me. During the prayer he told his Mom, “Aunt Janet should choose surgery, because no one will notice fake breasts but everyone will certainly notice a bald woman.” Bless his heart, he was so concerned on how I would feel and how others would perceive me…a pure treasured moment of grace, concern and love for me.
Well surgery is over and no fake breasts for others to not notice yet, but now the toxic chemicals are stealing my hair anyway. There is no choice with AC chemo all hair falls out, usually on day 12-14. I am on day 8. I never really thought I had great hair, and it was a true challenge taming the natural wave before straighteners. But I have worn it longer than shoulder since grade school. So it has been an identity for me whether I admit it or not. So…
I’m not waiting for cancer to steal my “pretty long hair”. So much with this diagnosis is determined for me, but not this. I can not wake up to clumps on my pillow, clumps as I wash my hair and brushing the lengths out and I know I can’t sit in someones salon chair as they shave me without emotion. It is emotional. I know it’s only hair, it grows back, I need to go through it begin the healing with new hair. My hair doesn’t define me. I have all logical and intellectual thoughts about this too…but it’s part of my identity too.
I’ve never really been a vain person, but it’s not vain to want to keep hair, is it?
But the Lord wants me to heal, I trust that more than anything else. He wants me surrounded by my family and friends through every valley and peak and I plan on following His plan.
So Thursday night, I sat on our deck and had the most intimate grace-filled moment with my husband and children. I know this was also hard for Kevin, although he was determined to be my strength. He loves my hair. The way he twirls it as we fall asleep relaxes me, the way he gently lifts it as he helps me with a coat comforts me, when I blow it dry and it’s wild waving and untamed and he smiles and says he loves the way it looks has always maked me laugh. I knew cutting it would be hard for him too and he wanted no part of the cut because he knew how hard it was going to be for me and he wants to shield me from pain. But I wanted to do this. The plan was for Jaclyn to cut the ponytail to donate the 14 inch length and Zach would buzz the rest. Zach has buzzed his head when he was in high school for swimming, so he had the most experience (does four times, five years ago really count as experience). All I wanted Kevin to do was sit, hold my hands, and pray with me. The only thing that mattered was that I trusted no one more to cut off my big physical description than these three people.
As Jaclyn cut off the ponytail, tears silently fell from my eyes. It really was not about what the hair was to me, it was more about what baldness meant I was fighting. My beautiful daughter with long brunette hair tried to convince me that I looked great with ear length chopped pieces surrounding my jaw line. I laughed as she said I looked like my sister Diane, because I have always looked up to her and for a moment in time I got to look like her too. But I was jumping into the water of cancer patient with both feet and we could not stop there. Zach clicked on the shears my sister-in-law Mindy had dropped off earlier in the day. The buzz sounded like bees around my head that I did not want to be there, but could not swat away.
Zach looked me in the eyes and lovingly asked “you okay?” all I could do was nod as he placed his left hand gently on my head and the shears begin their journey. He traveled from forehead to neck guiding around the ears and carefully keeping it even. After about five minutes Kevin tenderly took over. He could tell from the gasps of breath how I was doing and he knew instinctively that he needed to finish and that I needed his hands to complete this step. My children moved to chairs in front of me holding my hands as we listed all the blessings in our lives together. All I could focus on at that moment was goodness and praises to fill my mind and heart. When Kevin finished with the shears, all he could do was just hold me and allow me to release all my sadness, fears, and worries into his strong and fearless arms.
Reflecting now on this, I am so glad the Lord allowed me to control how I lost my hair, it was an incredibly intimate moment with my family that I would not have changed for a moment. I am stronger today because I am on the other side of this step.
I am now, not the cancer patient, or a bald woman that everyone will certainly notice, but the woman with many looks! Well, Kevin doesn’t want me blonde (an easy request to keep) but don’t be surprised to see me in Carmel, tints of Red, or 15 inches of pencil straight lengths under scarves and hats. I always enjoyed catching up with a friend that changed her cut and color with the seasons, she was daring and free! Now I can embrace that gift…to be daring and free with displaying my hair…who am I kidding, I’m too conservative, I’m gonna find a style and stick with it…or not, guess you’ll have to keep tuned in to see.
Thank you to my incredible daughter who purchased cheap fun wigs to make me laugh after the “event”. Thank you for my wonderful husband and son who braved Jaclyn’s insistence in donning the wigs AND allowing pictures. I am so blessed!
I have found him whom my soul loves. Song 3:4
Grace embraced through the loving Thursday evening of shaving with my family.