Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bonus Post, written a while ago: How To Cut Your Hair If You Have CANSUH, by Jo.

Inspired by my pal Lara, who decided to go Bald a couple of weeks ago:

First, indulge in your favorite vice.

It doesn't matter if it's caffeine, green drinks, alcohol, sodium, or nicotine: you'll need something to ease the shock of going hairless. Indulge.

Second, find a friend.

Going hairless is hard. It means not only that you're sick, but that you look sick to other people. Once you buzz off your locks, there's no hiding that you have something wrong with you. Even the most intentional, carefully-dyed Annie Lennox locks will draw second looks from people in the local Target. Friends help you get through it.

Third, be thorough.

Make sure your hair is clean and dry. If you're altered to the point that you can't be trusted to pick out clipper guards, have your pal do it. Do not, under any circumstances, go after your bangs with a pair of nail clippers. Make this an event, not an afterthought.

Fourth, be relentless.

Make sure everything is even. If you have eighteen hairs left on your head, be certain-sure that those eighteen hairs are all a quarter- or half-inch long (whatever you've chosen), and that none of them are out of alignment. That makes your haircut look like something you've planned, and not something that just happened to you.

Fifth, consider dye.

I dyed my hair screaming orangeish-red, the color it was when I was a teenager, just after I buzzed it short in anticipation of radiation (which, Praise to the Power, did not have to happen). Beloved in Beer saw me as I was sitting with the dye on my head and was not freaked out, and later said, "You look just like you did when you were eighteen."

If you can, make the loss of hair something that looks intentional. Even if you're sick, one person out of three will instead assume that you're incredibly bad-ass.

Just after I had shaved my head, when I was mourning the loss of my hair, a man stopped me in the grocery store. He was six foot something, and Black, and had dreadlocks down to his waist. "I'm sorry to bother you," he told me, "but I have to tell you that that is one kickass haircut."

"Thanks!" I said, "You're not so gruesome yourself."

Sixth, look at yourself hard.

It's hard, hard, hard to see yourself in the mirror once you've gotten rid of that stuff you've combed over or twisted up or pulled back. Do it anyhow. Notice how your face looks different, how your eyes pop, how your jaw is more defined. This is how you'll be looking at yourself for the rest of your life: in varying ways due to varying circumstances.

Seventh, be not afraid.

If you really can't stand it, it'll grow back. In the meantime, wear a hat.

Eighth, while we're on the subject of accessories....

Hats are not an admission of defeat. Neither is really amazing, tarted-up-like-a-three-dollar-whore makeup. Nor are tattoos or scarves or earrings or anything else you might do to deal with your bald or buzzed head. Anything you do, other people will see as an accessory, even if you see it as a compensation.

Ninth: Scars are not bad.

If you lose your hair secondary to radiation after a radical neck dissection, wear your scars with pride. You're on the upside: You one, cancer zero.

And even if IT wins in the end, you've had a few months of kicking its ass.

Tenth, It Will Grow Back.

Cancer does not change who you are. It might, for a short amount of time--but the number of people whom CA NSUH changes permanently is small. We always revert to who we are at the end of the day.

If you want a mullet, your mullet will grow back. If you want waist-length, wavy stuff with red highlights, that'll happen too (shout-out to Cenobio!). If you decide you really like the buzzed look, you can keep it.

Cancer can't change who you are at the core. It'll change how you think, for a while. It'll change how you eat--maybe forever. It'll change how you feel about stuff, off and on. It'll change how you look--but that's in your control.

But, at the end of the day, you are still Lara. Or Jo. Or Cenobio. It's a fucking clump of fucking crazy cells; it's not the end of you.

Have fun with your trimmers. Make sure they're sharp.


Jenn said...

Thank you for this post. I remember when we went to get my mother's head buzzed and the other stylists at the salon were horrified. We had asked my mom's stylist a month earlier if should would be willing and she was excited and came up with several really short cute ideas. It came out looking awesome and afterwards all the other stylists apologized. People can be dicks, but wear your head with pride!

Molly said...

I always figured that if I had to go bald I'd dye my hair blue or purple first - well, after cutting it shorter than the butt length it is now.

messymimi said...

And in the end, who you are is growing and changing all the time anyway, so why not do it with style!

Unknown said...

My only regret - I didn't dye my hair blue. Haha.

You're right. I'm still me, even without any hair. It's still a bitch to look at in the mirror. *Cue Debbie Downer music*

Eileen said...

OK - he's a bloke. But when my other half had ca nsuh (a meag-rare mediastinal teratoma which meant chemo, surgery and radiotherapy) he went off to the hairdressers in the hospital concourse (UK, socialised medicine but a sensible hospital that made sure there were the right sort of shops on site). They did a special offer of £1 for a No1 cut for patients. When it finally grew back he decided he didn't like having hair - he'd always had curly locks - so went back. On finding it was now £4 as he was no longer a chemo patient he bought a clippers and I've done it for the last 17 years.
What was funny (the whole family works in healthcare so we have a strange sense of humour) was when his brother's wife, as his brother was also about to get chemo, said "Of course, it's only your hair that you lose" (meaning head hair). Er, no, hair is hair: scalp, eyebrows, other areas... Their faces were a picture - both PhDs in physiology. Must have missed that lecture!

Penny Mitchell said...

Friend D at work had multiple options that she worked through on a daily basis, including (among others) an electric blue, long wig, a hot pink bob of a wig, a brown wig that looked just like Uhura in the original series (and she always wore her Bluetooth with that one), gypsy scarves, a white top hat and NotADamnThinkAtAll. She is one of the most singularly individual people I have ever know...not everyone would be able to pull this off, but if the spirit moves you to do something different, don't hesitate.

Friend C, after losing her hair, had her mother write in Sharpie on the back of her head, "Why yes. Chemo DOES suck."

We are not our hair. Can suh or not.

Just My 2¢ said...

And for the folks like my son, who received whole brain radiation while having treatment for leukemia...

Enjoy the lifetime of weird looks from hair stylists when they find the tatooed aiming reference points on your scalp.