I am obsessed with hair. I have spent more time in the last year and a half thinking, talking, worrying, and writing about hair than I ever thought that I would. I’m sure that this is just another one of those unexpected cancer side-effects, and I wonder how long it will last.
I am amazed when I think about all the different hair styles I have had in the last year and a half, many of them chronicled by photos on this blog. My hair has been long-ish, light blonde, dark blonde, shoulder length, chin length, short, crew cut, shaved, gone, curly, wavy, and straight. My closets and drawers are overflowing with wigs, hats, headbands, barrettes, elastic bands, and scarves. The cupboard under my bathroom sink is chock full of shampoo, conditioner, gel, mousse, pomade, serum, and hairspray for blonde hair, long hair, baby hair, short hair, straight hair and curly hair. My hair has had an identity crisis.
While I was going through the process of losing, mourning, and growing my hair, I wrote here about how I noticed everyone’s hair more than I ever did before. One of the first things I noticed about people when I didn’t have any hair was the color, texture, length, amount, and style of theirs. It is still one of the first things I notice, even though I have more of my own.
My hair started to come in a little straighter at some point in the last few months, until it began to drive me really crazy. I had straight/wavy hair on top and curls on the bottom, and I couldn’t do anything except put it back in a headband every day. I finally made an appointment with my hairdresser, took in an old picture of my hair circa 2006, and asked her if she thought we could make that happen now. She washed and highlighted and snipped and razored, and my hair now resembles my old hair. I have to straighten it each morning to get the ends to match the rest of it, but it is my hair. I kept trying to appreciate the curls while I had them, but all I really wanted was to have my old hair back.
Now I spend a lot of time touching it, running my hands through it, and reveling in the feeling of it blowing in the wind. I still have a “bad hair day” from time to time, but I find that I’m not as concerned about that as I once would have been. I have hair, and that is enough.
I was showing someone at work pictures of my family last week and we came upon pictures of me from two years ago. My hair was shoulder length and bright blonde back then, and he was taken aback by the image. I thought about it later, and realized that he has only ever known me with dark blonde super-short and curly hair—he never thought of me as a blonde with long hair. My cancer experience is so much a part of me that it is hard for me to imagine that people who are just meeting me for the first time now have no idea. They don’t know how it has changed me, because they didn’t know me before the diagnosis. They don’t think of me as “Kim who had breast cancer” because they only know me as “Kim.”
But when I think about myself now, I almost always think about my cancer experience. It is as much a part of me as the descriptors of “mom” and “law student” and “short.” I am surprised by that, and by my inability to escape it. When I was in the middle of treatment, I dreamed about the day that it would be over and that I could stop thinking about it. I am finding that even when the treatment is over, however, it isn’t something that is easily forgotten. And just as I am getting used to my new hair, I am still getting used to a new world order that includes my identity as a cancer survivor.
Pictures of the current hair style to come soon….