Something strange is happening. Not my hair loss, although that is surreal enough. No, the really odd thing is that I have virtually no hair and… I’m OK with it! Really OK with it. It took a few days to get used to my new look, I will admit, but get used to it I have. That honeysuckle scent is clearly powerful stuff!
As we had planned, my husband shaved my head on Saturday evening. It was a tough ask, but he bit the bullet, set the clippers to No. 3 and did the deed. My first look in the mirror was a horrific experience. Nothing had prepared me for seeing myself with so little hair, the shape of my head fully revealed. I was shocked, I cried and I felt desolate.
Since then, more of the remaining fuzz has fallen out, leaving behind a patchwork effect. Today I have had my second chemo session and, with more of the poisonous healer now flowing through my system, the rest will doubtless fall in the next day or two.
The act of shaving a woman’s head has been used in many ways throughout history: to humiliate, to punish, to label as prisoner, to dehumanise, to de-feminise. But it has also been used by women themselves in very positive ways: to empower, to rebel, to reclaim, to simplify one aspect of life as a woman, to make a statement, to enhance spirituality.
On Saturday, as the clippers buzzed over my head and the hair fell down over my shoulders and onto the floor, I had myriad images in my mind of women who have had this inflicted upon them, and of those who have chosen to brave the shave.
In the few days since then, I have become accustomed to my new look. At first it was hard to go out wearing one of my small but growing collection of chemo headwear but it is getting easier every day. I hold my head up, look ahead and smile (and in the summer sunshine, rocking a cool pair of sunglasses really helps with my nascent confidence!)
I know there will be tough days ahead, days when I can’t face the world, days when a look from a stranger is too much, days when I want to hole up in my little cottage and commune only with our dog and the garden. And that is fine.
For now though, I look in the mirror and I see a woman doing what is necessary to survive this cancer malarkey. I definitely feel more aligned with the simple, the spiritual and the bold, rather than the humiliated and unfeminine. Like my peonies, coming into bloom after a rain, something new, and perhaps even beautiful, can emerge after a storm.