Saturday, December 17, 2011

That Lock of Hair

Back last year when I'd started chemotherapy, on the night we cut off most of my hair, I saved a little bit of it. It was my favorite piece, from right in the front. I snipped it off first, saying I'd keep it. Matt questioned me about it at the time. I wish I could remember exactly what he said, but it was something like, "Do you really want to keep that? When enough time has passed for that to be a souvenir, you will have grown new hair." Those weren't quite the words, but that was the gist.

I kept it though. I tucked it in the top of my jewelry box, not in a bag or anything, just lying there. And there it lay. Every day or two, when I lifted up the lid of the box to get a pair of earrings out or something, I would have to poke it aside gently with my fingers so I could find what I needed. After that night, the hair on my head went on and fell right out and then, in time, started growing again, and the seasons went around.

Months turned into a year, and then started rounding on year two, and still that lock of hair was there. A couple of times, I took it out of the box. I would smooth it in my fingers a little and admire its texture and color. I thought, "I need to save this to show my colorist when I get highlights put in my hair again." Then I would remember that my hairstylist has my precise color formula recorded in her little black book, just waiting to be called up. Then I would put the lock of hair back in the jewelry box.

Life continued to happen. I kind of stopped seeing the lock of hair at all. With one hand I would flip up the top of the box, nudge the hair aside, pick up my jewelry, and flick the lid shut again. It grew to be kind of a nuisance having it there, as you can imagine. You need to pick up a pair of little stud earrings and there's, like, some hair in the way.

Just as I ceased really seeing that actual curl of hair, the whole issue of having hair and losing it and regrowing it kind of fell out of my top stories. Like, it wasn't the headline anymore, then it slipped below the fold, then it got buried way, way back on like page E20. Maybe after Lifestyle but before Real Estate. No longer current events, no need to catch anyone up on it.

The other night, at my first book club meeting, there was a girl there who had a kid in the same class as Laura a few years back. We kind of recognized each other, but it took a few minutes to make the connection. She shook her head and said, "Oh, I didn't know it was you! Your hair was really long, right?" I said, "Yes, it was long." She kept on, making a kind of gesture with her hands, as though to indicate big, full hair. She goes, "I mean, it was like, really different!" There was a time in the not even distant past when I would have said, "Yes, I had to have chemotherapy and it all fell out, but it's all fine now," or something like that. But I just repeated, "Yep, it's short now!" And left it there. It is not something I find I need to process in conversation anymore.

This is what I would say to anyone who is facing chemo and the loss of hair, because I know that for many people, this is near the top of the list of their fears. But I would say that, believe it or not, not only will you get through being bald just fine, there will come a day when you don't even really regret that it happened, and you sure won't spend any time thinking about it. That day will come sooner than you think. As hard as it is to imagine when you're just starting down that road, the whole story of going bald and being bald will one day be boring to you. Like, over, done, next topic.

So, that lock of hair. Late last week and into the weekend, Matt was gone to California for work. The day before he was to come back, I wanted to freshen up our little bower for his return, so I decided to clean and organize the bathroom vanity. Because you know how husbands come home from trips and say, "Show me the bathroom sink!" Yeah. I also had a cute pedicure to show him. Like, "Let me see your feet, wife!"

Anyway, I was straightening our stuff and I opened my jewelry box and plucked out the lock of hair. I hadn't really looked at it in a long time, and it just seemed like a relic. Not in the good sense of something precious preserved, but like something that had once seemed important and was now just odd. Is that still lying around? Clutter. I picked up my phone, snapped a picture of it, feeling kind of ridiculous even doing that, and then tucked it down in the bathroom wastebasket.

You always hear personal organization gurus tell you not to hang on to unnecessary things. If it's not useful and it's in the way, get rid of it. If it's sentimental, take a picture of it, then keep the picture and get rid of the thing. So this blog post is my way of doing that.



Aimee said...

This is something...a great message for people at the front end of the "going bald for chemo" process. A fitting way to remember.

I was just thinking about you this morning, "I started reading Becky's blog right as she was diagnosed. Wow, that was *well* over a year ago." It's funny how those major life experiences ebb and flow, isn't it? What consumes us entirely one day (week, month, year) somehow becomes something we think about weekly, or monthly, or once or twice now and then. It's fascinating to me.

Elizabeth said...

RIP, lock of hair and Becky's chemo treatment and cancer. RIP.

Camp Papa said...

Perspective is frequently hard won. That which doesn't kill us sometimes just hurts like hell. But, thank God, that passes too.

Love you.

Anonymous said...

Bless you for deposing cancer. xo

KathyS said...

A nice Christmas sentiment, actually: get rid of anything that holds you back, is clutter, and focus on what's really important (like what skill Laura will perfect next or what funny thing will fall out of Hank's mouth).

Kudos, hot cocoa, and love!

Amy said...

Beautifully written, Beck. You made me all verklempt! It's funny how things we think will be a Huge Deal end up not to be. And I loved your analogy of losing your hair being after Lifestyle but before Real Estate!

It even seems to me that your whole experience with cancer isn't even front page anymore. I mean, I'm sure you think of it all the time, but it's not something that defines you. Maybe it's on the masthead, part of what informs your day-to-day, but even it has been pushed to the side. What a blessing that life indeed goes on.

Now, do you think you'll grow it long again? ;)

Allison said...

Nice post. I'm glad your hair is back.

Lisa Lilienthal said...

I love that you saved it, and I love it even more that you can let it go.

Star said...

Thank you for this post.

Sjn said...

From someone still facing "the front page news", I'm so glad for you that this can all be a distant memory. Healing, moving on, and staying NED is what we all strive for. You fought the fight and you won! Stay healthy girl!

Kelly said...

Doesn't it seem like so long ago? I'm very proud of you. You are so strong and courageous. Hoping one day my mom will be able to write a post like this!!! xoxo

A Day That is Dessert said...


Ginny Marie said...

You are my kind of people. Sometimes I get tired of the angry cancer people. I've always been sort of a non-angry type survivor. ;)

Jenni said...

Love this, B, xoxo.

Julie Morris said...

This was great.