By: Katie Austin
For so many women, our hair is an important part of who we are. We never leave home without it and we style it to go with not only our outfit, but how we are feeling that day. I used to be that girl that couldn’t leave the house without styling my hair, locking each curl in place with the help of many different products. My hair was long and curly, defying gravity at times and had a mind of its own on a hot, humid day. I miss my long hair, but not for the reasons you might think.
You see, I lost all of my hair while battling breast cancer. One of the possible side effects from chemotherapy treatments is that your hair falls out. At first, I freaked out at the thought of having no hair, but what could I do? It wasn’t like I could grow it out, keep it in a ziploc bag and dabble a little on my bald head when needed. But, I did decide that I would purchase a wig to have as my backup plan. When I wanted to have hair, I would put it on and when I didn’t, I would go naturally bald. Funny to think that for me “going natural” no longer meant letting my curls dry on their own.
So, where would I start looking for a wig? Do I order one online or find a store locally? I had no idea where to start and then I found Becky’s Place at Lexington Medical Center. I decided I would stop in after one of my oncology appointments and see what hair they had available. I had it in my mind that I would purchase a wig that was similar to the long, curly hair I was used it. It would be just like I never lost my hair and I would feel more like myself.
I tried a few wigs on and glanced over at a shorter style. I realized then that I had the perfect opportunity to try on a wig in a shorter style that was completely different for me. A shorter cut with longer pieces of hair, framing my face. I have always loved this hair style on other women, but never had the guts to go that short. Well, knowing that I would lose my hair completely, I could take a leap of faith and go with something shorter to try it on before my hair came back in. Almost like test driving a new hair style and if I didn’t like it, I would test drive another until I found the wig that I liked and fit the new me. After awhile, I began to like my shorter hair and began missing my long hair less. Losing my hair was an opportunity to re-invent myself.
Shortly before my 2nd chemotherapy treatment, it began to fall out in clumps. I realized then that I wanted to take control and cut off my hair before it all fell out. I had my wig as a backup so it was time for my hair to go before it left me looking like something out of a bad horror film. It was as if I was making a last stand and my hair would be gone on my command. My husband, with a pair of scissors in hand, began the tedious task of cutting my hair off. Because it was long, we had to cut it as short as we could and then he could buzz it shorter. I had a thought in the middle of my hair falling to the ground — I wanted a Mohawk. I thought, why not?! I am going to lose all of my hair anyway so I might as well see what I would look like with one. So, once it was short enough, I received my first (and last) Mohawk. We took pictures to capture the moment (also proof for those not there) and then the rest of my hair was buzzed off. Well, let’s just say that I look better bald than I do with a Mohawk
What I learned through the process was that my long, curly hair was a security blanket for me. Losing my hair helped me to become more comfortable with myself, letting go of the old me and embracing change. Now, when I go to get my haircut or highlighted, I just sit in the chair and let the magic happen. I am trying different styles and loving the different looks as I am finding myself during this journey. What my hair has become is an accessory and I dress it up different every day. I knew that losing my hair would leave me feeling empty, like I lost a best friend. It was one of a series of hurdles that I would eventually overcome in my battle against cancer.
Life is a series of hurdles, some larger than others. No matter what comes your way, you have to believe that you will always find a way to get over each one. No matter how many times you fall down, you pick yourself up, dust off and keep trying. Never give up, never give in and embrace change along the way. You just never know where your journey will take you