Hairy Christmas

Two days before my second round of chemo I noticed what I had dreaded the absolute most since I found out I had stage three breast cancer about three months ago—that my hair was falling out with a little more intensity than usual. I was more upset about losing my hair that losing my boobs. I was more upset about losing my hair than how lousy chemo makes me feel. Losing my hair, I felt, was the ultimate slap in the face by cancer. After it takes everything—it comes back to take just a little bit more. The volume of hair I was losing at that point was a very minor increase and if you had not been the person resting underneath that hair for twenty-eight years you probably would not have even noticed. But I did. I held the strands in my hand and had a conversation with my hair. No seriously, I did. I told my hair how incredibly uncool it was being for falling out and to just stop. It didn’t listen.

The next day there was more hair. A few strands on my pillow. No!!! This isn’t happening! I really figured I would be part of the one percent—the upper echelon of cancer patients if you will—that didn’t lose their hair. Honestly, with my kind of treatment it is probably less than one percent of people who keep their hair. But regardless, I was hopeful. My mom already had a hair appointment scheduled for her that day randomly and she asked me if I would like to accompany her. She planted the seed in my head and let me mull it over for a while. I just sat there on the couch assessing my follicle situation. I didn’t know what to do. A part of me was just over it. My hair was very long at that point; it reached the middle of my back. And of course the other part of me wanted to hold onto my hair forever and fight cancer tooth and nail. Never give in.

I cut about a foot of hair off that day. I sat in the chair and didn’t shed a tear while my hairdresser put my hair in a ponytail and chopped the whole thing off. My mom was crying but I told her it was just hair! No big deal! My new haircut fell a little below my chin and looked pretty cute (if I do say so myself). Maybe this was as far as I would need to go? I think the reason I was not traumatized by this initial hair-chopping experience was because I realized I had no choice in the matter. It is not like your traditional let’s-chop-off-all-my-hair post-mortem moments when you regret your decision. For me, I didn’t have a choice, so I embraced my new haircut. But that, unfortunately, was not the final one.

By the next weekend my hair was falling out in clumps. I was literally filling up wastebaskets with the fist-fulls of hair I was pulling off my head. Hair was everywhere and yes, it was pretty gross. If I touched my head, hair would fall out. If I brushed up against something, hair would fall out. If I just sat there completely still minding my own business, hair would fall out. And then it started to hurt, which was the real breaking point. It felt as if thousands of tiny, sharp needles were poking into my scalp. It hurt so badly. Finally, three nights ago I was in so much pain from my hair that I called my mom while she was at work and told her I was going to take scissors to it. I was holding my hair up to a pair of scissors like a hostage. One wrong move and she gets it. I was having an emotional breakdown looking at myself in the mirror where a bald spot was starting to form on the very front of my hairline and the pain of the prickles was all just too much. My mom came home and told me to wait until the next day when we could get my hairdresser to do it. I told her I couldn’t wait. It hurt too badly. GET IT OFF ME! So my mom took the scissors and cut some more off so I couldn’t feel it poking into my neck. There was some relief there but not enough. It still hurt.

The following day I went to see my hairdresser, Debbie. She let me come in after the salon was closed so I wouldn’t have to basically shave my head in front of strangers. I was very grateful for that. I felt so sick on the ride there (I was still very nauseated from the chemo) that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to actually sit in the chair long enough for her to cut my hair. Upon arrival, I immediately rushed to the bathroom of the salon worried I was going to throw up right then and there. I composed myself, stepped outside of the bathroom, and informed her that my hair situation was borderline appalling. I had a hat on so no one could see the state of my hair but the bald spot had gotten worse. It was forming into a large strip going down the middle of my head where my part generally rests. I looked like a possessed clown that no one wants at her birthday party and I was over it. So we all sadly acknowledged the fact that it was time to cut my hair off and I sat down in the chair.

Debbie started cutting off my remaining hair section by section. I was looking in the mirror while she did it. When I realized that I did not recognize the person staring back at me I lost it. I started crying. I could not compose myself. I was so angry that I looked this way. I was so angry that this was happening. For the first time in a long time I was feeling utterly sorry for myself and the whole scene was pretty pathetic. I just sat there in the chair, basically bald, weeping and shaking and pissed off. I finally pulled myself together and she continued. When it was all said and done I had about a half an inch of hair left on my head interspersed with patches of baldness. My worst nightmare realized, basically. My mom and Debbie insisted that I looked cute. I allowed myself to entertain the thought. I mean, how else am I going to get through this? I quickly put my hat back on.

Unfortunately the pain and the prickly feeling are still there. Last night I tried to cut off even more hair but it doesn’t seem to help. It is so painful to sleep that I really can’t sleep. Resting my head on my pillow is excruciating.

No one really wants to lose all her hair days before Christmas. The one positive aspect to all this is that I take zero time getting ready in the morning. Not that I really have anywhere to go. BUT if I did, I would be out the door in no time at all. I also look pretty badass. If anyone tries to mess with me I will just take off my hat and that will be the end of that. I should probably just roam the streets of my hometown with my scary looking head showing and cut down on crime rates. It is a weird juxtaposition however, because when I do have my hat on I look like a synchronized swimmer, but when I take my hat off I look like a cold-blooded killer.

So that is it, people. My hair is gone. I am down to the brass tacks and things can surely only look up from here. I asked my mom earlier this week if this part of my journey is as bad as it is going to get. We both agreed that most likely, it is. So this is good news! I am looking straight ahead. I am focusing on the finish line. I am buying cute hats. I am purchasing a purple wig (I told my mom it is an absolute must). And I am shopping in the scarf section of Macy’s. I asked my sister if the scarf industry only manufactures ugly scarves—like if it is some sort of regulatory requirement or something. Why are they all so hideous? I will keep looking.

I hope each one of you has a very happy holiday. I hope you all celebrate a little more than normal this year to make up for my largely non-celebratory year. I am so sick from the chemo most of the time that I don’t have many opportunities to celebrate. So get out there and get all Christmas-crazy for me and send me some pictures. I would really appreciate it. As for me, I will celebrate the best I can. I am going to bake Christmas cookies, hang out with my family (having my niece and nephew around makes anything better), and enjoy the parts of the holiday that I can. Next Christmas I will have hair. Next Christmas I won’t have cancer. Next Christmas I am going to celebrate so hard it will scare some of you. Happy Christmas!


14 thoughts on “Hairy Christmas

  1. I CANNOT wait for the purple wig…brings back memories of Laine (Gilmore Girls), the token adventist korean girl, who dyed her hair purple in defiance to her mom… didn’t last long…but still. I am quite certain that you are bad ass…(yes, I just typed that) and we will “try” (not techno savvy) to post some pictures of our unconventional Christmas. You are constantly in my thoughts, as is my best friend, Debby, who was just diagnosed with the exact same thing. Here for you, at any time, in any way.

  2. It sounds to me like you are doing everything right. The hats are cool. They look fine. My son who doesn’t have cancer but is a navy SEAL has a totally bald head. . . it doesn’t prickle or hurt though I’m sure, but he wears hats all the time when he isn’t “SEALing” He looks good with a hat. I bet you look great in a hat. I can’t tell you how long the misery of the head will last. You have other friends that would know. Ask Judy, she lost her hair in one day while we talked. God Bless and give you some joy during this season. For one thing you have hope for a happy next Christmas.

  3. Dear Abby,
    I am sooooooo sorry you have to go through this! I really was hoping that in the 24 plus years since my cancer, they would have found a cure. I can only tell you that – looking back at those 24 plus years – IT IS WORTH IT!!!! Hang on Abby, I pray for you and your family and please know that some day you will wake up and your first thought will NOT be -oh, I have cancer.
    Hugs and prayers, Sue Wood
    P.S. If you all need to get warm this winter, we have plenty of space for all of you.!! It is 80 degrees and the walls (and our arms) are open.
    P.S.S. Jason and Jackie gave me that book last year and it was wonderful! Now, you will write one even better!

  4. Hey Abby, keep hanging in there and fighting hard!! Your hair will return with a vengence and be even more beautiful. We think of you constantly and are praying for a complete recovery. Thank you for sharing your journey. Blessings to you and your family this Christmas season.
    Love and hugs, Helen

  5. Hey Abby,

    I’m praying that the chemo treatment passes quickly and your hair grows back even prettier than before for you. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I never knew that it could hurt to loose your hair and I hope I never have to find out. I pray you find some peace and comfort.

    Christy Hewes Ziesmer

  6. Dear Abby:

    I met you this past summer at my cousin Jon Cowell’s house at their 4th of July party and I met your parents again at the pie party this summer that my aunt Luette organizes. Lu recently told me about what you have been going through and about your blog. I have gone back and read each of your posts and then read them to my daughter. I cried and laughed with you. You are one spunky cookie! I just wanted to tell you how I admire your spirit and faith. I am thankful for you! I will be praying for you and your family.

    Love, Shelley Tritch

  7. Hats are in! Cute hat or not, I’m sure you could rock just about anything. I have found some cute scarves, triangle ones, and would be glad to pop some in the mail to you if you would like a little Christmas from the Maryland area! I didn’t realize loosing your hair would be so painful! Hugs to you Abby! Treat yourself to whatever feels like Christmas and totally enjoy those two adorable little people!

  8. Heah Abby! You are beautiful inside, and breast cancer cannot change that!! Rod and I eagerly await your blog to see how you are doing. We hate this cancer thing, and hate the misery you are going through. But you are kicking cancer butt every time you go for treatment! And one step closer to your beautiful hair growing back!!! We love you!
    We will take some group pics in Tennesse, watch on Facebook!

  9. Hey Abbs…
    I was unable to respond right away bc I got all emotional w/ you. Your descriptions put me right there sitting next to you. Right now I want to give you a big squeeze hug!! I am amazed each time you write at the strength you have to share your personal struggle w/ us your family and friends. You are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I know it light be hard to believe at times, but Philipians 4:13 is a powerful text to hold close to your heart “I can do all things through Christ who givese strength.” Sorry they aren’t making super sexy cute scarves:) On the brighter side there are tons of adorable hats!! I hope you can find se peace and joy this Christmas:) Luv u!!!!

  10. Dear Abby, You define yourself by your attitude, your courage, your life, your hope, your dreams, and how you rise above today. Thanks for sharing your journey. You re giving a Christmas gift in this that goes beyond hair, chemo, and fear. You have daily prayers. Can’t wait to see the purple wig, scarves, and hats in real time. Merry Christmas

  11. Hi, Abby,
    Remember me? Claire told me about your illness and brave fight and sent me your blog link. I put a comment at the beginning of your blog but don’t know if you will get it so here goes again. I just am sending you a big hug and all of the love and faith and hope and prayers I have inside me. You are so damn spunky and tough and funny and inspiring. Amazing! What a great writer you are too, by the way!
    You WILL have a better Christmas next year. I believe it with all my heart.
    My family are all thinking of you and praying for you also, Abby.
    You feel like crap now but I know you are still beautiful–inside and out.
    I just admire you so much for the courage with which you are handling this.
    Sending you all my love and lifting you up in my special prayers this Christmas.
    Betty Grisham

  12. Good to spend some time with you tonight, you were looking adorable as always. I love your attitude even when it is not sunny. Thanks for sharing your journey with all of us, you are an inspiration to lots of people.

    We loved you with hair and we love you with no hair, with a hat or without a hat, with a scarf or without a scarf. None of that charges the person you are. You are still Abby, and loved for the sweet girl you are on the inside! Do not let outward appearances define who you really are.

    Next time someone looks funny at you when you are out, just smile and stick out you tongue at them!!! Well, only if your Mom isn’t looking!

  13. Hi Abby,
    I think about you and pray for you everyday. This Big C just sucks but this too shall pass. The whole Morris clan is praying for you and we can’t wait to have a big Morris/Ramirez extravaganza to celebrate your recovery. I’m thinking French Riviera, Fiji, Barbados. You choose.
    Hey, I also have some fabulous wigs you can borrow. One is a long black curly headed wig. Think Cher with an 80’s perm. The other one is a long fuscia pink curly wig. It would look fabulous with the fuscia pink color that you have used on your blog.
    Oh! Another thought. If you want to be a blond, I’ll cut Cynthia’s hair off while she’s not looking and we can make that into a wig. I’ve always been jealous of her hair. So, I’m glad to take care of that for you.
    I love you and hope to see you soon.

  14. Dear Abby,

    I think the purple wig will make you look like a rock star! 🙂

    Why stop at purple? Try pink and blue too! 🙂

    You are in my prayers!

    I hope you will recover SOON and that God will surprise you by making your hair return to it’s full glory even better than before as you are cured from cancer!

    Keep strong in Jesus Christ and know that He will see you through!



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