Life changes forever the moment you hear the word "cancer" used in a sentence with your own name.
What an understatement! If you choose a conventional route of chemo and radiation as I did back in 2002 when it was my name in that sentence, the days become a whirlwind of doctors' appointments, surgery, chemo, and radiation. Personally, I would make different choices today, but that’s a different post for another day.
So instead, let’s talk about hair. First, you have to picture me, the ultimate un-hair gal. At the time, I was a fairly youthful looking 40-something with long straight dark hair just a little salty with silver. Good old wash and wear hair. Throw it into a ponytail hair. These are very important hair attributes for me. (Yes, I tried Big Hair in the 80s. Big Frosted Hair. There is photo evidence. We all have youthful indiscretions.)
So it came as a complete shock that the words “…and all your hair will probably fall out” were the ones that caused me to come unglued. Not surgery, not chemo, not radiation…hair loss. Suddenly, my whole identity was wrapped up in the hair I was about to lose. Turns out that “un-hair” was actually a statement about who I was and I was about to not be me in that way any more.
Not being brave enough at that time to flaunt a bald head or wear scarves, I made a bee-line for the wig shop. Maybe this was my chance to be a bombshell blonde or a flaming redhead, to assume a new identity or maybe more than one. Naw. That was fun in the shop, but the wig that came home with me was a cute bob like Catherine Zeta Jones sported in “Chicago.” The deciding factor was the huge thumbs up from the twinkle-eyed octogenarian gentleman who whistled and cat-called “Sexy!!!”
Sure enough, shortly after the first chemo treatment, all my hair fell out and I was wearing that wig. Then, a funny thing happened – strangers started asking who did my hair. People on the street. A nice lady at a party. After the third or fourth incident, I wrote in my journal “Dear god, if you wanted me to change my hairdo, you could have just said so!”
Slowly, I began wondering what else might have needed changing that I had been missing and a turning point blossomed. Cancer became an opportunity to clean house, get rid of whatever really needed to be gone, and to define my next chapter. I jettisoned things I could no longer do or that didn’t work or that I just didn’t like. And as I threw the old stuff overboard, space was cleared for the soul changes – career, habits, family, friends, and even finding my beloved – that my heart had been craving.
Fast forward to today. There is long hair attached to my head again, but almost everything else is different. The hair is thinner, frizzier, and greyer, but it's mine. I re-vamped my career, moved (more than once), and got married. Turns out that soul purging was an essential step in my soul journey.
First, there was resistance and jumping from this to that. Gradually, there was awakening and recognition, then baby steps, then leaps, and finally the new/old/original me began to emerge and there was peace.
Getting cancer felt a lot like getting whacked by a cosmic two-by-four. Wake up! Pay attention! For each of us, the task is to simply allow the power of whatever comes our way every day to propel us towards something better. Life may be full of people getting sick, losing jobs, and ending relationships, but it also full of people getting well and finding better jobs and new relationships.
Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Cancer is quoted as saying, “I would never call cancer a gift because I wouldn’t give it to you.” Very true. And yet it is precisely when we can see the gift in each and every thing that comes our way that our true healing occurs. And it is through our healing that we recognize and welcome our true selves.
Anne Wade is Teacher, Writer, Mentor, and Coach for courageous women in midlife and beyond who want to disrupt their own status quo and design life on their own terms, even in turbulent times. She has developed the Becoming Found process of going within to find and address the inner barriers we have all inadvertently built up against love, happiness, health, wealth and any other desires of our hearts. Teaching women to unapologetically shine like a superstar and live their legacy is Anne’s mission.
You can follow her on her Facebook page “Anne Wade – Becoming found” or join her “Becoming Found” Facebook group.
7 thoughts on “If You Wanted Me to Change My Hairdo You Could Have Just Said So”
Cancer is scary and life changing. It’s wonderful that despite that, you allowed it to lead you into a new and hopefully better life. Many people don’t take from it what you did and fall into hopelessness. Appreciate you positive and honest blog about it.
Such a great post Ann! Thanks for sharing! I recall when my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer what a gut punch that was but so many things occurred as a result of the journey we ended up on!
Thank you for sharing your story Anna.
Isn’t it amazing how perspective can determine what we get out of the situations of our lives?
Am glad yoy cam out stringer and better!
Thank you for sharing your journey and congratulations.
My best friend had the same challenges as you did with her hair and it unfortunately paralyzed her ability to not leave her house until she eventually passed away a little over a year from diagnosis.
I’m currently treating a young girl with cancer who had same challenges but recently had a breakthrough seeing her baldness as a place of empowerment.
Keep sharing this journey with us. Thank you
Admiring your un-hair look Anne and I’m reminded of the late Persis Khambatta who shaved her head for her role in the Star Trek movie, and still looked beautiful. I think its what’s inside us that gets reflected even in times of adversity.
I’m not sure if I would call cancer a gift either but when my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with Terminal stomach cancer it was a wakeup call for me and I’m more cautious about my health. Her’s is the only cancer case in our family but one learn’s to appreciate life and the many blessings of waking up each morning to a new day.
We were hair twins BEFORE!
We were even wig twins — I got the brunette bob too! I gave up on it quickly though — too hot and itchy. A good friend sent me a Buff (like those deployed on Survivor) and it was my favorite head thing until the hair came back.
I’ve kept mine short. Aside from the constant visits to the hair stylist, it’s WAY easier.
Only took me 50 years to discover that!
Two Annes! Two stories! Welcome Sista! Hopping over to your blog now…. The dang thing was definitely itchy and hot, but I loved the look temporarily. I’ll never forget flying down to the islands on a 6-seater puddle jumper. Wore the wig on the way down, but had ditched it by the trip back. The poor fisherman who shared both flights was clearly baffled and finally just had to ask. His harrumphing response was spot on – “Any woman who would pick vanity over comfort doesn’t deserve to come down to these islands.” Excellent advice!