I was at an event last night, the host decided to shave her hair off to raise money for the Children’s Hospital. Honestly, my first reaction was why would a person shave off their hair if they did not need to. When I was sick, people offered and I thought it was ridiculous. The cause is great, I completely support the reason, but why self-imposed baldness? At the end of the night, I felt that she was very brave. The money raised was worth the act. What really surprised me was my reaction to watching her shave off her hair.
I offer a free head shave to anyone who is losing his or her hair from chemotherapy. I truly feel that once the hair begins to clog the drain, it is time to shave it down. The result is hair loss, why not be in control of something while on the cancer experience, everything else is really out of your control. I remember when my hair began to fall out, right on schedule, about two weeks after my first chemo treatment. It hurt; I was not expecting the pain of hair loss. I was not aware of the scalp tenderness caused by the hair follicles closing.
After my second round of chemotherapy, my husband took me straight to the hair salon where my sister worked. First mistake – a salon. Not too sure what I was thinking, but going to a salon where women are having their locks trimmed, styled and coloured was not the best plan. Second mistake, my sister – far too emotional, we were both bawling like babies, as my head became a bald palette.
I thought that I would be that person who would “rock the bald”, well after blubbering for a while, I realized just how real shaving my head made the cancer. I really had cancer and losing my hair made it real. What shook me the other night was watching someone else have her head shaved. I do head shaves often, women cry and I understand what they are feeling. It does not affect me, maybe because I am the person holding the clippers and I am in control.
Last night, watching this brave woman having her head shaved as she raised money for a great cause, bothered me so much. I cried and I felt this huge ball building in my stomach, it was crushing my lungs. Everything that I experienced almost 4 years ago came up in the form of tears and minor hysteria. As my husband rubbed my back, comforting me, I wondered what was happening.
Cancer has this special treat attached to it, apparently every now and again, when you least expect it – there are the memories and the vulnerabilities. Watching the shave, brought back feelings on insecurity and the unknown diagnosis that cancer is. I had not felt this way, or this strongly for quite some time. In the store, people let go and tell me what they are experiencing and I feel honored that there is that trust. At times, there are tears even for me. The tears are of empathy, of seeing what they are dealing with and listening. Just listening. At times, there are questions asked. What did you do, what was your experience and did this happen to you? I am happy to share what I went through, no question is to personal. Anything I can say to help make this crappy diagnosis a bit easier or less overwhelming is what I feel I am here for. I’ll talk on the phone with women who have many questions, yesterday I spoke with some one for close to 20 minutes. She thanked me after for the conversation and said she appreciated that I spoke with her, even though I knew she was not going to buy anything.
I know I run a business, but I feel it is more like a social enterprise. I am happy to help another person deal with a cancer diagnosis any way possible, to provide resources, support other programs and not make a sale. Maybe that is not the greatest business acumen, but what goes around, comes around. I truly believe that. Karma.
The act of shaving your hair, for the support of a cause, for the support of a friend is honorable. The feelings of vulnerability are there for that person, at that time. Making your own choice to do it, is in your control, but until you actually have no hair left, one cannot realize the emotion that comes with it. Our hair is an accessory, we use it to hide behind, to make us look “prettier”, it gives us self confidence.
I am inspired and in awe of those women who take this upon themselves for a cause. I am really happy they are not sick when they make this decision. I understand the severity of what it means when there is an illness attached to hair loss. I will continue to offer head shaves for free, with compassion and true understanding – it was a good reminder of the heavy emotion that comes with it.