Monday, August 10, 2009

Too Much Hair

I am back from vacation. But tired. Super tired. So this may be short.'s at least an original post and not a repeat. It is however about hair. I'm stuck in a hair rut.

There was a time when I couldn't quite figure out why hair--or more specifically the loss of hair--seemed to be such an overwhelmingly big aspect of this whole cancer thing. Compared with, oh, let's just say, um...the potential loss of life, it seems that losing one's hair temporarily, while not fun or easy, is not the worst aspect of the cancer experience. Yet it certainly seems to be the one most discussed and the one that others (i.e. "other" than the cancer patient) seem to obsess over. I could have paid all my out of pocket medical expenses, if only I had a dollar for every time someone not diagnosed with cancer told me they didn't know what they would do if they lost their hair, or that they would be "really unattractive" without hair, or some such thing. And honestly, it didn't bother me that much when it happened. The thought of chemo (and stay with me here folks, the chemo happens first...then the hair loss) and all it's potential side effects stressed me out a bit more and by the time the hair loss occurred I was ready for that and eventually when the chemo fatigue set in (conveniently, right about with the hair loss) I was happy to have the extra time in the morning (no shaving, no shampooing, no blow drying, no styling and eventually, no mascara necessary).

But that was then. I'm all better now. I have my energy back. I've returned to the regular programming of my life. I'm back at work and my new associate started today, so we're really ready to go all out full speed ahead. And I miss my hair.

I've given up the wigs and the scarves for good and I have enough hair to do that without drawing stares everywhere I go. And as a friend said of my hair "It's a look. It's a style. It's not your look or your style, but it's a look." Which is true--whether it's a lesbian chic look or a "just back from a spiritual retreat in Sedona, how do you like my new beads and isn't it a shame about the rain forest?" look--it is indeed a look. But it's not me. And that's starting to bug me. It's my last reminder of my "cancer patient" status (hey, I don't really notice the scar at "right breast 10 o'clock" and I guarantee you strangers aren't noticing it! Oh, okay, I have the weird foot neuropathy thing but that comes and goes and in the right shoes, no one notices.). Yeah, yeah, I know--the whole odyssey was only 7 months and it was only been a few weeks since treatment ended, but hey, I'd like my hair back now!

Part of this is coming from that fact that I was at an estate planning conference in Chicago and felt a little "off my game" dealing with so many other lawyers (a competitive lot, to say the least). I felt just slightly odd and I do believe I was perceived differently by others. Two sociological findings (or maybe it's the same one?) that are probably not surprising: a nearly 6 ft tall blonde woman in a suit and heels is not easily over-looked or ignored in a still primarily male dominated field; turns out that same nearly 6 ft tall, no longer blonde, nearly hairless woman in comfortable flat shoes (to accomodate her swollen feet) is quite easily overlooked. Although, that was mostly my experience with men. Women were actually warmer than they usually are to me-- although for the most part, that's not the other lawyers--that's the exhibitors and staff for the conference. I won two different "raffles" (you know how the exhibitors at conferences always raffle off things to get you to leave a business card? Yeah, those.) I'm convinced the raffles were not at all random. They liked me because I talked to them (and I talked to them because they talked to's all very meta) and in one case "the cancer" came up and voila' I was the raffle winner! (yeah, I know, I should have gone to every table and used the cancer card. My suitcase wasn't that big. And airlines charge by the pound now.)

Another part of this is coming, I'm sure, from the fact that I met several of Chris's really nice, really accomplished friends in Chicago. And since they are his friends from college (read: Princeton, so we're all clear on where I'm going with this) they are way younger than me. So I was feeling a's just say old, stupid and ugly. Not for long (the old and stupid part anyway) though, because they are very nice and interesting and not at all judgmental (and, well, bright enough to understand the whole cancer thing). But again, the hair thing bugged me. I would just prefer not to look odd. Especially when meeting people who don't know me any other way.

I actually had a dream last night that I had hair. Not a dream in which I appeared with hair, but a dream wherein Dream Teresa realized that her hair had suddenly grown to shoulder length and was blonde again. Dream Teresa then realized she needed to style it or cut it or do something with it. Dream Teresa then ran about (outdoors mostly, because dreams can't ever make sense right?) trying to find the appropriate styling tools. That part of the dream was much like the "I have a test and I can't find the classroom I'm supposed to be in" dream that we over-achieving geeky folks who looooved school have. Eventually Dream Teresa settled on foaming up an entire can of mousse and lathering that into her hair (a sign that real life Teresa has watched Chris struggle with controlling that massive tsunami of hair of his one too many times).

I warned you--I'm in a hair rut. Or maybe this was a hair-rant. Either way, it's over for now. Must get sleep.

The photo is to let you know a) what the hair "look" is currently (and oh yeah, I threw in some artsy bead jewelry), and b) that my vacation was enjoyable and I did get to spend time with the Missouri branch of my family. That's my younger brother Jay and his son Lucas in the photo. Because when else will the 3 of us have matching hairdos?

PS: a note about "potential side effects" of chemo. Read the "potential side effects" of aspirin. Or cold medicine. Scary stuff. And yet you still take those things. Okay, so the side effects warnings for chemo are a bit more extensive, but it's the same basic premise--the effects are potential and each of the effects have happened to someone. But they don't all happen to everyone on chemo. And they don't all happen at the same time. And many of them never happen to many people. (That was just for anyone--D-- reading this who might currently be contemplating the side effects of chemo. ;-) )


  1. I won a raffle when i had no hair too. I'm convinced it was a case of 'let's give it to cancer girl'. But hey, there aren't that many perks to all this, so i was gracious!!

  2. I didn't understand the sociological impact of hair until I got mine cut - I had very long, very thick hair that I almost always wore in a ponytail. (See photo.) Even then I noticed that I was just about invisible to men when I wore it in a ponytail, but they noticed me when it was down.

    But the real change occurred when I had 18 inches cut off to donate. But my brilliant hairdresser gave me a wonderful cut and a whole new me emerged. Suddenly I was, well, cute, and more feminine. Suddenly men started noticing me, and women started being mean to me for no reason.

    Needless to say, I kept it short, but it has made me very aware of how people judge by looks. Yes, a haircut can completely change how people perceive you.

  3. Welcome home! It's good to know your vibrations are in the area again:) Hair--perception is reality and unfortunately, the adage "you can't judge a book by its cover" are really true-isms.Women are pretty competitive with other women,especially when they perceive them to be a threat to themselves. The cancer card does open up their hearts more it seems---It seems to be about oneupmanship with some folks--you look great in any case and the bottom line is, you are healthy and you are woman and you are invincible..Hey, that sounds like a song:)

  4. As someone who has always had short hair, always worn flat shoes and could be described as "lesbian not-so-chic" I am sorry that you had to visit my world. Remember that whole thing with the writer who shall go unmentioned? Um. Yeah. Just don't forget, I love(d) you with blonde hair and high heels!!

  5. huh. It suddenly makes sense why women have always generally been nice to me and I've never won a raffle at a tradeshow. :-)


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