I’ve been growing out my hair — something I have in common with just about every cancer survivor and chemo patient there is.It’s a long, drawn out process, though. Human hair only grows about a quarter inch a month so, if you do the math that means the average male chemo patient will look normal in about 8 months to a year.
The average female chemo patient….a whole lot longer.
I’m lucky I suppose, because my hair grows more than twice the average rate, more than half an inch a month.I know this because I’ve made my hairdresser a rich woman touching up color for years.I used to resent, financially speaking, how fast my hair grew but no longer.It’s grown by leaps and bounds since February 2010, when it first made its comeback.So, unlike a lot of women, my hair looked normal fairly quickly.
Still, I get reminded at the most inopportune times.Yesterday I was happily indulging in my very favorite pastime, retail therapy, when the sales clerk asked for my ID.I handed it over and the first thing she said was, “Wow, your hair used to be really long.”I could feel my boyfriend’s eyes boring in the back of my head, hoping I’d say nothing for once.I didn’t. I merely smiled and nodded.I didn’t even remark that I was growing it out.
But Bob got a tiny taste of what I deal with every day.Remarks.Often said without thought, they sting.They remind, they poke at me when really, I’d rather just be buying out the store, please.
For women, hair is our crowning glory, I don’t care how liberated or independent we are, our hair is all bound up in our sexuality, our esteem, ourselves.My oncologist was never more right when he told me that the very worst part of chemo would be the temporary loss of my hair.I will never forget the look on my daughter’s face when I first cut it short.We were meeting at CostCo to do some major shopping before the chemo hit me full force and I’d gone and cut off my hair. I had not lost it at three weeks the way my doctor said I would but I cut it short nonetheless.My daughter got out of her car, took one look and spent the rest of the shopping trip rearranging her expression.She had never seen me with short hair.This made the cancer more real than perhaps even the surgeries had.
It goes without saying that I put in extensions the second it was long enough.They lasted four, tangled months and cost a fortune but they were worth every penny and hour I had to spend tending to them. By the time I took them out (by hand, over a few days’ time), my hair was near to sweeping my shoulders again.I looked like myself without them.I would have kept them for a year if it took that long to grow my hair because I wanted my daughter and my grandbaby to see me as I am.
When my boyfriend picked me up at the airport last week he never said a word about the lack of extensions.In fact, I oft wondered if he even noticed when I had them.All he said was how glad he was to see me and that I looked ‘good’.
‘Good’ is Bob-speak for me looking healthy and better yet, not so alarmingly exhausted.I tried to tell him, days later, how fortunate I was that my hair was still thick, lush and had so much silky texture and body.This of course fell on entirely deaf ears because it is a topic for my BFF and I, or my hairdresser and me. Not Bob.The meds I take can leech all that away but I am lucky, genetics, or perchance the hair fairies, and my hair is still my crowning glory.I was not going to age with that brittle, thinning yellow-gray old lady hair so many women ended up with.I got my dad’s lush locks so I wanted to celebrate by pointing this out to Bob every chance I got.
But Bob being Bob, he simply doesn’t care.Truth be told, he secretly favors short blond hair and mine is now much longer and back to the reddish hue I grew up with.As if I didn’t know what he liked but even so, I am feeling back to normal.Back to me. So much so that I might even buy a little short blond wig to surprise Bob.