Who would have thought that after a year of grueling cancer treatments, the step that would feel like THE conclusion to the process would be some hair dye in a bottle. Yesterday I said bye to cancer hair. I woke up and decided this is the day to end it.
End what? In my mind, an official end to the cancer tenure in my life. I was finished with treatments but it hadn’t felt like the end until now.
I am amazed at the power this has had. I feel well again, I feel “undiseased”, I feel “normal”. I was unaware of how much I couldn’t stand the gray.May because it whispered “cancer cancer cancer” as I looked in the mirror. May be it reminded my of the time when my life had lost color. May be it was familial.
My grandmother who has passed away now, used to have her hair dyed way into her 90s. It was a routine to go to grandmas every two to three weeks to help dye her hair. As I got older, I became the assistant to my mom in the process. She had long beautiful hair and I enjoyed combing it very much especially as she got older and could no longer sit up, so she would lie there and I would comb her hair spreading it out as I pleased. It was a wonderful connection between 3 women and 3 generations. My mom has always kept her hair short but she also is militant about keeping up with the color. So it was but natural for me to have lots of ambivalence about the gray hair received as a parting gift from the cancer treatment.
It seems that some memories had gotten woven into the silver that I no longer wanted to reflect on, braided in were the glimpses of nausea, fatigue and melancholy and this silver needed to be tarnished so it was no longer vividly potrayed times that were painful, times that were sad, times that were challenging.
I wanted to join in with the mainstream women. Women that get hair cuts and go to the salon and chit chat with the hair dresser, not the chemo nurse. As the stylist was combing my hair, he asked “Am I hurting you?”, an innocent question but nonetheless a trigger to flooding thoughts of IVs being put in mixed in with the question “Am I hurting you?”. I smiled at him and said, “Absolutely not! “.
I had never imagined that dying my hair would be such an emotional celebration and would feel like such a triumphant ending, as if I have prevailed over cancer. I will admit that I was a little startled when I looked at myself with the dark brown hair I used to have, I hurriedly looked away and then I looked again. This time I saw my self, just my self . That is all I wanted to see, no more no less.