Shaving my head, (or, How to hang on to one bit of control and litter your living room with hair)

Just hair.

I set the date to shave my head down awhile back, and in a moment of genius my ex-husband and father of my children suggested that he and the boys shave my head together, in an attempt to make them feel like they were part of this journey. I agreed, despite the fact that many might think it a poor idea to activate ex-husbands and razors in the same room. Cancer changes things. I asked a dear friend to come by and take pictures, and here we are.

My boys, getting one last touch in of the mohawk.

My boys, getting one last touch in of the mohawk.

The hair is going anyway. I can honestly say I have no regrets about the way I’ve chosen to deal with that. This stage is interesting, though. It’s not that I mind being basically bald. What is significant about this is not the baldness. It’s the evidence of illness that is now unavoidable. Up until now, I have been able to pull myself together in the morning and leave my house and wander about  (despite double mastectomy, half-complete reconstruction, PICC line, bruises from bloodwork and various injections, extreme fatigue, mild nausea, etc) town without feeling like people look at me and know that I am sick. Even tonight’s razor-short cut may buy me another couple of days. But I know it’s coming. There is no funky fix for chemo-bald. People will now have to stare it in the face when they look at me. That makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to make people wonder what to say, or look around for a quick exit.

Bit of a moment, I'll admit.

Bit of a moment, I’ll admit.

Cancer is isolating in some ways. You are forced to set yourself apart and make new sets of rules for yourself. Never one to say no to any social gathering of any kind, I surprise myself by making sensible decisions entirely based on my health, even when it means sitting at home while my cherished group of girlfriends heads out on the town to celebrate a birthday, as we traditionally do. There is something about this particular phase of treatment that forces you to look your illness straight in the face, and hunker down for the long haul. This hasn’t happened without grieving for me, and tonight I watched as my youngest son finally fell apart watching me get my head shaved, after a couple of difficult weeks of what looked like anger. Everyone around me will process this differently and in their own time, and I know that the visible reality of the illness, the hallmark bald head, will be particularly difficult for some closest to me.

To them I will say what I did to my son tonight. Each hair that falls out is a sign that this medicine is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. Zapping out each and every cancer cell that has the audacity to attempt to find a place to roost in my body. This is a good thing. After the medicine has done its job, the hair will grow back, likely with a few more well-earned greys. In the meantime, I will wait for the lovely pink wig I ordered on e-bay the other day, I will experiment with scarves, and I’ll probably rub my head a fair bit, because it actually feels pretty cool.

No hiding now. Dare I say it's kind of liberating?

No hiding now. Dare I say it’s kind of liberating?

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13 thoughts on “Shaving my head, (or, How to hang on to one bit of control and litter your living room with hair)

  1. and some of us just respect the hell out of how you are approaching it all….your inner Sinead rocks! Like she said …….’Nothing Compares 2 U’

  2. Byron totally stole my line. I love the new look. I want to place a bow and arrow on your back and watch you run effortlessly through woods and aside rushing rivers in your soft hide boots laced up high. I have no idea why…something to do with strength and will but also something more. I also very much enjoy incorporating that upcoming pink wig into my image. Geez…I think I just thought of my next tattoo…. 🙂

  3. My Tanya- I say that because it just came to me that everyone who loves you thinks of you as their Tanya. You are looking at this part of your journey exactly as you should. You’re absolutely right in that the hair will grow back. There is a normal to return to, and you will come to it. If you will, look at the fb page of my friend, Joyce Pratt. She is another great success- Stage 3C ovarian cancer to her present normal with all the treatments you are and will go through. I got her to start karate, and now she’s doing japanese ju-jitsu, as well. I had retired by the time she got cancer, and took care of her wounds for her during her recovery. She just last week got married to Jason, our dojo owner and sensei. She, too, is a wonderful lady who has, like you- guts galore. As I said before, your head is a perfect shape for shaving. I’ll be shaving, too- like Alex said, all two hairs…

  4. I’ve been quietly reading along, as you tell your story with such exquisite and extraordinary vulnerability, and THIS is the post that made me bawl. I was overflowing with such love and compassion for your family as you talked about your son breaking down. You are teaching them both things you never thought you would have to teach them, and you are doing it with such grace and with such an open heart. This can’t do anything to them but make them better men in the future. And to you, Tanya, thank you for sharing your experience with such authenticity. As you talk about your fears and deepest moments, it moves us all and makes us all more human.

  5. Hi Tanya: I am second cousin, Laurette, and your father gave me your blog to read. I am very proud of you and your courage. I know your family would like to take some of your pain away as I talk to your Dad now and then but I know you have the comfort of knowing they are always there for you. I have a friend going through the same cancer as yourself and she is also a very strong positive person. Thinking of you often.

  6. Hi Tanya. I have been sitting here reading your blog and have to say that I knew when I first met you (you taught my son Jason in Schreiber) that you were someone special. You have handled this with such grace, humour, tenacity and you have shared your journey with us in such a beautiful way and the lessons you are teaching your sons … amazing. You are an inspiration to us all. Take care Tanya.

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