I initially lost my hair to the music of Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. While I had been warned that I would awake to chunks of hair on my pillow and told that I should get a pixie cut immediately upon diagnosis; my reality was long, thinning strands of wavy brown hair coming off in liberating clumps in the shower. I’d run my fingers through my departing hair while shaking my hips and singing that I “would make a dragon wanna retire, man.” But now I am learning in ways I did not expect. I made a Youtube video tutorial only last week, rubbing my bald head with pride. My empowering buzzcut—a fuzzy and edgy look that didn’t feel like that of a sick person, is now patchy and fluffy. My hair is now growing and falling out at the same time. For a while I was at a loss for words when people complemented my empowered stance on hair loss and identity because the girl-of-many-hats had lost—for a moment—the guts to go out without one.
My message is simple: wigs and hats for chemo patients should be about expressing individual identity and should be points of pride. The cultural drive to have the same look every day can fly out the window because we have cancer. We can do what we want. We can rock basically anything. So why am I so afraid to rock my naked scalp now?
What I’ve learned is that self-confidence comes in more forms than simply always loving exactly the way your body looks. It is ok to feel uncomfortable with the outward ways your cancer or treatment is showing on your body. The issue of hiding, however, can be transformed into a matter of diverting attention. When I wrap scarves into colorful twists and ties around my scalp, I no longer worry. I may not be ready to celebrate the appearance of my patchy hair, but I can celebrate that it’s a result of life-saving treatment, I can appreciate that I am concealing it for now, and I can divert attention to something I wear with pride.
I had my makeup professionally done directly after I got my buzzcut. I scheduled the appointment because I was afraid I would no longer feel beautiful. When my hair was gone, I immediately assumed the physical identity of a fighter. Now, every night, when more, smaller hairs fall out in my hands in the shower, I remember how I felt when listening to music in the shower during the first weeks of chemo. I remind myself that although this means I’m closer to having no hair—no eyebrows, no eyelashes—this also means I’m closer to the day I have my long brown tresses.
It seems so simple and fleeting when you think about it like that. But now I know how to tie headwraps. More importantly, I know more about self-love and body positivity than I ever would have if I had not gotten cancer. And I think that is beautiful.