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When my doctor told me "Majo, you have cancer", the first thing I asked was "Is my hair going to fall out?". Luckily, my Frantz Tumor could be cured through a very aggressive surgical approach and without chemo. Losing my hair was one of the things I feared most and for this reason, I understand the anguish but not the experience.
It's always nice when life shows you exemplary people and because it is the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want you to meet Jennifer Hodson who, at 29 years old, walked the painful path of cancer, experienced the loss of her pretty hair and emerged victorious from the fight against her disease.
I've always had amazing hair. Thick, strong, resilient. My hair has always been a focal point of those who spoke to me: "Never cut your hair!", "Never dye your hair!", etc etc. As a result, I always shuddered to think about what I would be without it. Sadly, that thought became a reality on November 17, 2016, when I was told that I had been diagnosed with stage IIA breast cancer.
The news itself was earth shattering, certainly, but the purpose of this post is to really dive into what my hair meant in all of it. For me, personally, it took a backseat to all the rest. I knew from the beginning that I was going to cut it short, shave it when it started falling out and then embrace my impending baldness.
For many women I spoke to who were also going through treatment, they took a different route. Some opted for follicle saving Cold Caps or leaving their hair as is until it REALLY started to fall out.
THERE'S NO RIGHT ANSWER FOR HOW TO GO THROUGH THIS, IT'S ALL UP TO WHAT YOU CAN HANDLE
Shortly after I was diagnosed I opted for a cute pixie look, and it was awesome! Having been locked into a certain hair style for most of my life, I was forced into taking a risk. If the hair cut didn't work out... who cares?! I have cancer! It's all going soon anyways. Thankfully, it looked ok and I was able to sport it for a few months before chemo finally took it's toll.
DID I CRY? YOU BET I DID. No shame here!
Once I noticed the large clumps coming out, I took control again, and I buzzed it off. I remember my heart pounding as I walked into work the first time with no hair, and how little people actually reacted to it. A strong sign that most of my worry was in my head! However, MANY PEOPLE RELY ON THEIR HAIR TO APPEAR "NORMAL" DURING THIS TRAUMA as a way to seem "ok" to their loved ones and undetected by society in public. I understood this fear and I wanted to erase it. Staying ahead of chemo hair loss empowered me, and I've never regretted saying goodbye to my long locks.
Soon though, I was losing even the tiniest of hairs on my buzzed hair. And it came time to really brace for the bald. When the last hair fell, I understood what it was like to be viewed as a "sick person". To feel those stares and want to run away from everyone gawking at me. I thought I had prepared myself for being bald, but simply I hadn't.
When I was able to hide it, I would fade into the background of any environment, covering my head with a hat or scarf and hoping that no one would ask me why. If I had a hot flash or needed to let my head breathe, it would bring on looks of pity from everyone in the room. I had no reason to be mad at them, but I was. I didn't want to be stared at or pitied, I wanted to be normal.
As time went on I got used to the stares and I started to embrace my bare noggin. It was the only way to take control back. I wore the hats less and tried the brave face on more. I stopped caring how others saw me and focused solely on being comfortable in whatever room I was in. Losing my hair taught me to stop relying on it for normalcy. It taught me to truly look at myself and how the world around me looks back.
Now that it's growing back, I'm excited to dream about things like hair ties and bobby pins, but I'm also much more aware of how I'll never hide behind it again.
I'M A BADASS, THROUGH AND THROUGH, WITH HAIR AND WITHOUT IT.
Jen Hods (@jenhods).