Last week I talked about losing my hair from my chemotherapy treatments. At the time, I thought that would be the worst part, but I also found the process of growing my hair back more traumatic than I would have thought. I remember at first, when I would see little stubble of hair growing in on the top of my head, I would get all excited and show people what I called my ‘seedlings.’
As a woman who has never in my life had hair above shoulder length, I had no idea how long it would take to grow back. Of course the doctors told me to expect half an inch a month. My hair grows slowly, I found out, so it was a bit less than that. I think I was patient for the first year, hating my short hair and trying to figure out how to style it, while not cutting off too much.
The other issue I had is that it grew back very curly. I wasn’t thrilled with this either, and it also makes your hair look even shorter of course. During the second year, I would get constant compliments on my curls. I know people were trying to be nice, especially after what I had gone through, but it just made me upset. I didn’t want short curly hair after 30 years of long straight hair. And it was more than just feeling like my hair was suddenly not mine – it reminded me every time I looked in the mirror of what I had been through.
In some ways I think that if I had gone right back to looking like my old self, I may have been able to ignore what had happened to me instead of being forced to deal with it. It took about four years for my hair to look like it did before chemo – which is this month. During my last haircut, the last of the hated curls was snipped away and it now looks exactly the way it did before.
I know to most people, it’s just hair, but this journey has reminded me of how much healing I have done, inside and out. It also makes me realize how badly part of me still wants things to go back to ‘the way they were’ before cancer. I truly think that my hair has just been a symbol of the many ways that my life has felt out of my control since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.