I am bald. Sure, it is one thing to say it, proclaim the reality for all the world to hear, but it is yet another to have family and friends sit across the table from me and pretend that I am as I always was. Unchanged. The lack of hair makes it abundantly clear that I am different, either sick or having joined the cast of Star Trek. I had somehow forgotten how hair enhances a person’s appearance, especially if that person is a woman. Yeah, I look weird. Even my grown kids were a bit shocked when I appeared in the kitchen during a recent visit without a head covering. I got a sympathetic look and a hug. I understand.
To be perfectly honest, I have held onto the tufts of hair that chemo hadn’t claimed. I was adamant that some hair was better than none. I now understand why balding men resort to comb-overs. I tried that. I also used hair thickeners and spiking gel. But after a while, as I lost more and more, I only looked ridiculous and a little scary. I avoided mirrors. Yes, it was time to shave it all off.
So last week on my birthday, my buddy, who always knows what I need, showed up with cake and beer and a pair of sheers. We laughed throughout the afternoon as we alternated sips of brew with bites of chocolate ganache. And then, it was time. I sat on a chair outside as the trimmer buzzed to life. She made jokes to distract me, but made quick work of the remaining fuzz. The hair floated through the gentle breeze as I quietly made a wish that the birds would find it and use it to pad a nest. It was a lovely thought.
Within moments, the deed was done. I expected that I would be emotional, crying about this, my final concession to the disease that has altered my life and my appearance. But instead, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. It felt good to have a smooth scalp, cooler, cleaner. And when I looked at myself in the mirror, I laughed. My dear friend, who always has her camera at the ready, snapped my picture. But it wasn’t until she sent it along, and I had a chance to study the image that I saw it on my face, the look of pure joy over being alive, to celebrate another day. It is hard to fake happiness. And so, perhaps appropriately, appreciating the present is the best gift I got for my birthday. Truly.
I have faith that I will enjoy many tomorrows, that ultimately, my hair will grow back. In the meantime, I have ordered another wig and two soft caps. Happy Birthday to me.