Archived Story

Recalling a hair-raising experience

Published 12:49pm Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I used to be bald.

I got a haircut this weekend, which got me thinking back to a time when a haircut was a completely superfluous idea.

During my time fighting cancer as a child I lost my hair as a result of the chemotherapy – as most if not all cancer patients do.

When it first started falling out my aunt came to the hospital and shaved it all for me. Thus began my new experience being bald.

Of course, when you’re on the chronic illness floor of the children’s hospital, a lot of other kids have bald heads.

I remember a washcloth swipe was all it took to “wash my hair.” I once put a temporary tattoo on my head.

When you’re in the company of so many other people who understand, it’s really not a big deal.

But though baldness was the least of my worries when I was undergoing treatment, when I was allowed to go home, my bald head became more conspicuous. Trips to the grocery store and especially my return to school were awkward to say the least.

I never did go for a wig. I had a nice big hat box though. Hats and bandanas were my go-to for hiding the baldness. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it helped.

Worse was when my hair started growing back, between my second and third rounds of chemotherapy. The hats got old, but walking around with what appeared to be a buzz cut definitely didn’t add to my appearance. I got mistaken for a boy more than once – disheartening for a 12-year-old who just wants to feel like a normal kid again.

When I started my third round of chemotherapy, my hair fell out once again. No big deal, I was used to it by then. But as the days turned into weeks and then weeks turned into months, my hair wasn’t growing back.

“It will grow back,” my transplant doctor reassured me.

“It will grow back.”

“It will grow back.”

Until one day, my much-desired head of hair still elusive, he admitted, “Sometimes it doesn’t grow back.”

At long last it did come back in, thin and wispy but hair nonetheless.

And I’ve complained about it ever since.

It’s too thin, it’s too soft, it’s unmanageable, it’s oily.

And when I run my fingers through it in frustration, trying to come up with a worthwhile column idea for the newspaper, I can feel my scalp – bringing back memories most people can’t possibly understand.

But the fact is, it’s hair. Lighter and thinner than mine used to be but healthy and fully attached to my head.

I cut six inches off this weekend and it still nearly touches my shoulders.

So I’m going to try to be more thankful for something I once never thought would be mine – a head of hair with enough to spare.

James is a staff writer for The Outlook.

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