An open letter to my family and friends who have been a little disgruntled on the highly possible buzzing of my curly, bushy, frizzy hair that I have grown quite attached to over the years.
Most of you know come midnight, 12am Saturday morning, June 22nd I will be knee-deep in a commitment I made several months ago to have my hair buzzed off the old noggin at the Fight Back Ceremony at Relay for Life of Plano, Sandwich, Somonauk or as a dear friend calls it Relay for Life of Pretty, Stinkin Sweet.
Many of you questioned why I would do this. I know many of you have come up with your own ideas of why I am not only willing to do it, but why I would do it in front of a possible crowd of people. We women can be very vain can’t we? Our hair, our makeup, our clothes can be quite important to when we know others are looking at us, judging us, looking us over top to bottom. Many of us want to “measure up” to a code of what passes for beauty in some people’s eyes. Some of us live for attention. A buzzed head on a woman, especially one whose face has aged by leaps and bounds in these last 9 years of life can’t possibly be a “good look” can it?
Many of you think I am comfortable doing this that I don’t have one ounce of anxiety going through with it. Here’s the truth. It is quite possible that I will cry, that tears will fall the minute I realize there is no turning back. It is quite possible that the minute the first pass through of the clippers is complete I will lower my eyes to not see the expressions of those around me. They could be looks of amusement, of horror, or questions, any and all of those eyes will mean something to me and I will possibly at that point not want to go through with it, but it will be too late. But even before it is too late, I will go through with it. It is a statement I choose to make. A statement of showing what I am willing to do in this battle ground I’ve been planted in against cancer.
Here is another truth, this buzzing of my head is very personal, yet also a very public statement. It is about me; yet it’s not about me. It’s about everyone that is, was or will be, shoved kicking and screaming, fighting for every day, those crying, not knowing where to turn or go and those who will be unable to win standing in this battle ground.
cancer crop 3I know exactly how it feels to run my hand through my hair, to look down at my hand and see it covered with my hair, tangled between my fingers, trying to get it off my hand quickly, to think to myself, “no this can’t possibly be happening.” To have this happen to me while I was in the hospital going through Chemotherapy and sitting there thinking back to an earlier conversation with my Doctor who assured me, that with the type of chemo I was receiving I would not lose all of my hair. Well he was right, I didn’t lose all my hair, just enough to be appalled at the effect of what I did lose.
Several years before I was diagnosed with cancer, my daughter and I had a conversation. I had witnessed loved ones lose their hair by the handful and told my daughter I would never allow that to happen. I would, if diagnosed, have my head shaved before I ever started treatment, it would be one thing cancer couldn’t take from me. I would take it first. Yet in early conversation with my doctor I was comforted with the words, “you won’t lose your hair”.
On top of the chemo, I had 42 radiation treatments and because my cancer was in my tonsil and the lymph nodes of my neck these radiation treatments were close enough to the bottom of my head that I lost an entire band of hair from about the top of my ear down and from one side of my head to the other. That’s what the radiation did, the Chemo took enough of the rest of my hair to leave it very thin, spotty and what was left was mostly, above all else, gray. I tried very hard not to look in the mirror, because what I saw was a 90-year-old little woman looking back at me. I was 44 and the mother of a 2-year-old, a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old. It was devastating. I’ll repeat that just in case you really didn’t get it the first time IT WAS DEVASTATING.
By the time it got to this point, there was nothing that I could do. I was so weakened by not just the treatments, but coming so close to dying after the first round of treatment, I could barely do more for myself than get to the bathroom and that was often a failure. By the time I could get dressed and into a friend’s car or my Mom’s car to drive to my radiation appointment and back home again, I could do nothing more than do my routine of sleep sitting. During treatment I could not lay down, being screwed down to the table while taking the radiation treatment was a must and it was horrifying.
When my hair started falling out in the hospital I beeped for the nurse to come to my room. I had lost most of my voice to the treatments and I could not be heard over the intercom. In my rasp of a voice I asked for scissors, pleaded for scissors, but they would not give them to me. When I got home at the end of that week, I asked my husband, Keith to cut off my falling hair, he could not bring himself to do it. If I had the strength I would have kicked him, but a dear friend came to my aid. Lydia did the deed. She told Keith to get her the scissors and she cut it as short as she could in my dining room, as I recall Keith couldn’t watch. She was my savior that day, and I bet she would have kicked him too. I can’t begin to imagine how hard this was on Keith. To see his wife, every day be more drained of the person she used to be.
It may seem to you I go into this hair buzzing thing lightly, some of you have not walked my journey. I have not walked your journey. There have been so many others whose journey has been harder than mine. I do not tell you this story to make you feel sorry for my journey. I have come out of this a better person, I hope. I know this journey of holding your hair in your hand and not being able to do anything about it and that is why I will go through with the buzz. This is not about me drawing attention to myself; this is me trying to draw attention to so many current cancer patients, asking you to please see those around you that have lost not only their hair, but maybe some of their dignity, their faith, their courage along this path. I do this in honor of all of my sisters and brothers fighting for their lives right this minute.
I am one person taking a stand the best way I know how at this moment. I am asking you to stand with me, this is how I fight today, this minute. Tomorrow I will find another way. This is my fight, my battle. I am asking you to support this decision by spreading the word, this isn’t about me buzzing my hair off, it’s about helping those who need a savior, like Lydia was to me.
We need your hair at our Relay for Life Fight Back Ceremony. More specifically cancer patients need your hair. We need 8 inches of your hair, your friend’s hair, your family’s hair on June 22nd to donate for wigs. We need your hair to give it to someone who is on this journey now! We need you to come to our Relay for Life event, or if that’s not possible, go to your local hair salon and have them cut off your 8 inches of hair and not just give it to a charity that makes wigs for those who have lost theirs, but as the scissors are clipping your ponytail off, sit there and think very hard about those of us who didn’t have a choice in the loss of our hair. This may be a difficult decision for you to have your hair cut off, but knowing how much it will help someone else I hope brings you a smile. Make the choice, cut it off and give it to someone who is fighting, give them this. I’ve seen the smile erupt on my friend Kim when I told her how pretty she looked in her new wig. She looked amazingly happy for a few, if brief moments, in her too short life. Her new hair, lovely long brown hair, which replaced her bald head, which once held lovely long blond hair brought joy. Be the person that brings joy to someone who needs it as this moment. It costs you nothing but the vanity of going with short hair for a short while. You will be the better person for your sacrifice.


About jlturtlerunner

12 plus Years Surviving Stage IV Oral Cancer. I have become a "Turtle" runner since that diagnosis, as a way of saying, "Take That Sucker!" After 12 years of being a Turtle Runner, I'm adding a new title, Turtle Rucker!

4 responses

  1. Norma Carlson says:

    Good to read your journey. You are a great lady!!

  2. Penny Booher says:

    Thank you for your openness. This decision is convoluted, indeed, but your message is clear, valuable, and very needed.