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The Day I Shaved My Head Because I Had Cancer

Because I started out blogging about my breast cancer experience on a site called Caringbridge, I never really shared what I went through with my chemotherapy treatments on this blog. My Left Breast starts at my mastectomy and reconstruction, after I’d finished all my chemotherapy.  This is my post on  Caringbridge  from April 28, 2010, which I wrote after my second chemo treatment when I first started to lose my hair.cancer-in-womenMost women (myself included) have a terribly hard time dealing with the loss of their hair.  Our hair is wrapped up so closely with our femininity and our appearance that it’s really not surprising that for so many of us, losing our hair during chemotherapy is one of the things that we dread the most.

The other thing that most people don’t realize is that once you do lose your hair, it becomes the physical manifestation of just how sick you really are.  A woman without hair, eyebrows and eyelashes looks sick.  She looks weak and fragile.  This was one of the hardest things for me to deal with, looking and feeling sick once my hair was all gone.  This post is about the day I decided to go ahead and shave my hair off.

The post below was first published in Caringbridge on April 28, 2010.

Well, I guess this post just has to be all about the hair, or lack thereof, eh?  As of 2:00 pm yesterday afternoon, I am officially Cue-Ball-Head lady.

It’s much, much better to have a teeny, tiny bit of hair on my head, than the normal amount of hair that I had, which was falling out anywhere and everywhere, all the time.  It’s a little shocking, or disconcerting, to wake up in the morning and see this in the mirror, but I’ll try to articulate all the feelings associated with this experience, because hopefully, it will never happen to you and hopefully it will never happen to me again.  So, let me try and explain all the thoughts it brings to my mind.

My BFF’s brother-in-law shaved my head for me.  He’s the nicest guy, so gentle, so calm, so non-judgemental.  He took a lot of time and really wanted to do a good job, when in my mind, it was just all about let’s get this stuff off my head right NOW.  My BFF and her sister were both there and because of how long I’ve known them, and how much I’ve gone through with them in our pasts, it was very easy to just sit and let the hair fall away without any worries.

When it was done, I felt like a new person, kind of like a warrior woman. I look very startling.  There’s still some hair left (about 1/8 inch) and it’s mostly silver on the sides with some grey on the top, so it’s kind of silvery, shiny and the best way I can describe it is that it’s very “in your face.”

There’s no hiding about what I’m going through, now.  Which is fine with me.  I felt immediately better about myself.  Nothing to hide now, no more worrying about hair falling out all over the place at inopportune times which was what had been happening.  And, in fact, I’m way out there, I guess.  Cancer is here, but I’m facing it dead on.Once I decided to proactively shave all the hair left off, it wasn’t sad, it wasn’t scary, it was funny and very empowering.

My BFF of course kept saying, “Oh I wish I had silver hair like yours,” and, “Oh, your head is shaped so nicely!”  We all laughed and agreed that she was the only person you could imagine who could be jealous of someone who has to shave their hair off because of chemotherapy.Which is exactly what I love about her:  the fact that she makes me laugh so hard at life and my circumstances in the middle of this lunacy.

I had already bought a wig about 2 weeks ago (Raquel Welch has a line of affordable and very cute wigs that many cancer patients use during chemotherapy), so after the shearing, I tried it on and we all decided it wasn’t so bad and that I could “pass” when I had to go to client meetings when I didn’t feel like I wanted to share any of the details about my breast cancer treatments.

It was all very comical and silly and ridiculous, just what I needed on such a momentous day.  I’ll be forever in their debt for this one, what a relief.  Then I drove home with my Raquel Welch wig on, lookin’ pretty stylin’.When I got home, I took it off and showed the kids.  Their eyes got really big and they both said that it was kind of scary to see my bald head.

Understatement of the year, I’d say.  

So, I put the wig back on and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it, and if you want, most of the time I’ll wear the wig or hats.” My daughter rubbed her hand on my head and said, “Oooooh, it feels stubbly,” which of course, it does.  My son declined any head rubbing.  Such a boy.  And that was that, with the kids.

Later, when my husband got home, I was a bit worried.  He is my husband, after all and I still want him to find me attractive, and I would expect that it would be a bit disconcerting to think of being married to a bald-headed woman, but he was perfect.  Said the wig looked nice on me.

Then when it was time to go to bed, I took a deep breath, said, “OK, you’d better be prepared,” and pulled it off.  He just looked at my bald head, smiled and said, “It looks kind of cool,” or something along those lines.

And then he told me all about the latest Little League baseball team gossip/drama for the next half hour.  Phew.

Last night I slept like a baby.  Got up in the morning and was a bit surprised by the head staring at me in the mirror this morning.  I decided I remind myself of Bruce Willis which wasn’t quite the look I was going for but at least it made me laugh first thing in the morning.

If I didn’t have a sense of humor, I wouldn’t be able to make it through this experience.

Read more from Claudia Schmidt on her blog, My Left Breast

Claudia Schmidt

Slightly obsessive-compulsive, self-employed mom with 2 very cool but snarky teenage kids who just happens to have been diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in February of 2010. Looking at life through a new lens now.

Nicola Bull

Monday 25th of April 2016

Hi Claudia My friend Marianne sent me this link. I'm having FEC100 chemo, so it I was guaranteed to loose my hair. It started to fall out, a few days ago. Everytime that I ran my fingers through it, my hand was full of hair. Hair was all over my bed, the kitchen & bathroom. Within 3 days of mass shredding, although I still had so much hair left, it was limp & looked lifeless, I hated it. My grey roots were showing too. My 16 & 19 year old daughters saved it off on Saturday night with their dads electric hair clipper. They were so careful & took their time to do a great job. It felt liberating & upsetting, at the same time. But it was a huge relief to move on from dead limp hair. Thank you for sharing, it is amazing how I felt an affinity with everything that you wrote, I'm so glad Marianne sent it to me & want thank you for reinforcing that I'm not the only woman going through this with these feelings, there must be a little army of us out there! Kindest Regards Nicola

Claudia Schmidt

Tuesday 26th of April 2016

Hi Nicola - I know exactly what you mean when you say "it felt liberating & upsetting, at the same time." I felt exactly the same way. It's really wonderful that your daughters shaved it off for you - it will be one of those life defining moments for both of them which they'll remember all their lives with mixed emotions but with love for you. I'm sorry you're going through chemo. You'll get through it. It sucks but you'll make it through and it will change your life in ways that you wouldn't expect. My best to you and sending strength and hugs xoxox Claudia

Lisa Weldon

Friday 27th of June 2014

Cancer makes you a different person, doesn't it? I've never been 'blessed' with it, but went through it with my husband. It changed me. I can only imagine how it changes those who go through it. I'm so glad this is behind you.

Claudia Schmidt

Friday 27th of June 2014

Yes, it does. In some ways, I've found it changed me for the better, although I would never have wished this to occur, but I do feel like if you're handed lemons, make some lemonade so I tried to learn what I could from the experience. Thanks for the kind words!

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