How can I blog about cancer and not talk about hair, right? The quintessential image of cancer patient is that of a bald, pale, hairless ,tired looking ashy grey individual. So lately I have heard, ” you look great a lot! ” . I have been told, I should say special prayers to ward off the evil eye. Really? I already have cancer, what else would evil eye do, make me bald? make me loose my eyebrows? Put me at risk for heart failure? Infections? lymphedema? I am already at risk for it ( thanks to cytotoxic drugs). I guess some people think evil eye has a leg up on cancer.
So my hair story starts with the fact that in my teen years I decided not to cut my hair any more, and they started to grow. They grew and they grew and they grew until they were past my hips. I became known for my hair in college. I got suggestions that may be I should do a hair product commercials. Folks asked me for suggestions about their hair and how to make it prettier. My brother noted that there wasn’t much to me besides my hair, acknowledging in ( looking back) a condescending way, that I did have beautiful hair. Gradually it became a liability, an insecurity and a hindrance to my self esteem. Then came medical school and residency and the stress that comes with it. As it took a toll on everything, it took a toll on my hair. I started to loose hair. I was frantic, since it had become such a part of my identity. I would try home remedies , blame evil eye or “Nazar” as its called in our culture for it. Eventually I got fed up of having long straight hair and cut a little bit shorter. I still remember that my grandma questioning me whether I had cut my hair or not. My hair wasn’t mine any more.
Then I got married and now my mother in-law started to cherish my hair and was visibly upset when I cut and highlighted it to shoulder length. As you can tell, I had become highly ambivalent about my hair.( My husband, thank God, never got attached to my hair or its length). Now that i am typing this with a bald head, I have a smile on my face. So who cares that I am bald ( except I am not looking forward to winter). I see my face clearly, I am not distracted by what sits on top of it. I know who I am without that strands of alpha keratin. I don’t have bad hair days any more. Yes sometimes I miss having hair but a lot of times I don’t, and for this new found courage and confidence, I have to thank chemotherapy .Bald head, smile and the weight I am gaining around my tummy, I might get soon get a job outside an Asian restaurant !