For better or for worse, fighting cancer will change your life. This category is for you to share your post-chemo hair stories. Hair loss and post-chemo hair are topics that many people that are diagnosed with cancer are concerned about. We all know that our hair is very tied in with our pride and dignity, as well as our physical vitality and strength. Let’s start talking about ways to try and deal, cope, and embrace the hair changes that happen. What is your story? Please submit it to Your Stories, which can be found on the top of the HTHG homepage.
For those lucky enough to have partners, friends, and family that absolutely love and adore them and fight with them throughout their battle, the experience is about the highest form of REALLY LIVING LIFE there can be. Which is so beautiful and rich and real.
This is how I feel, having experienced this battle as a loved-one supporter too many times than I am comfortable with. And it makes me want to appreciate every little drop with every loved one on this earth.
I write this post today to pay fucking tribute to a really really great woman, friend, and hairdresser that I had the pleasure of working with my first several years at Vain.
I am going to keep it short. In the words of Derek Zoolander, I am not a eugooglizer.
I want to tell the whole story as I saw it from beginning to end. From working with Betsy Hansen, learning to do hair from her, laughing with her, going to hear her band play (Blank-its) to parting ways, losing touch, thinking of her every time I wore her band t-shirt, hearing the news of her diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer, following her progress and journey with her incredible husband Jonny through their tumblr site, thinking of her every time I did a star pattern cut or color, every time I taught or demonstrated a ponytail cut or color technique, every time I blew a fart away with my blowdryer (She taught me all these things.)
I will think of Betsy always, fondly, with a smile. I will think of her when I see a great swingy shag haircut that looks like it is moving even when it isn’t. And when I see red hair in 3 shades, copper, apricot, and dark cool russet. When we worked together, those were her colors. And when I see amazing color-block work. I will think of her when I look at the sweet painting she did for my daughter Marley when she was born.
I want to extend my love and gratitude to her husband Jonny who adored her from the get-go and loved and cared for her for every minute of the 10 years and 1 day they spent together. And to her family, and to her friends, and to her clients and colleagues and everyone who had the pleasure of knowing.
RIP Bets. You fought hard, harder than most of us could ever imagine. Give em hell up there.
Last Friday started out like any other day. I dreaded rolling out of bed. Since I gave up coffee a month ago and it has been so cold outside, getting out of bed has been like pulling teeth.
Once up, the rush and mayhem ensued of my husband and I getting our kids ready for school and trying to dress myself for work in something other than my usual pajama like lounge attire. I was swept up like a pile of hair on a windy day.
I managed to fix myself a cup of green tea on my way out the door. No breakfast, not because I wasn’t hungry. Because on the list of family needs on a Friday morning, mine got caught up in the windy hair pile and blew to the side. ‘ Why do I do this to myself?’ I thought.
Driving to work, I felt sorry for myself for not eating breakfast. Then, I felt resentful that my husband didn’t notice that I hadn’t eaten, Then, I shamed myself for feeling sorry for myself and silently apologized to my husband for being unfair and not speaking my mind. I tried to pry my mind out of the long tight braid of guilt for feeling self pity, shame for feeling guilt, and pity for feeling shame. There are bigger things than this.
I wonder what my work day will bring? My days at Vain are always different. I work with a dynamic and talented crew of people that I love. I have a clients from all over the map…..Strong, opinionated thinkers who are picky about their hair, quiet people who don’t know what they want, loud people who want what they can’t have. Just people, generally, with hang-ups like the rest of us.
I love doing hair, and I appreciate the client/stylist relationship and how it exults me out of the well-worn grooves of my own psyche and offers me a peak into the personal lives of others, a unique bond that is protected by secrecy and understanding. I hold their secrets, and the secrets of their hair. Sometimes their hair tells me secrets that they don’t even know. And I keep that bond between hair and I. Sometimes the bond is simply between my hands and their hair. Unspoken and unexplored by the brain and heart. Just simply tactile.
I hurriedly greeted my first client of the day with an “It’s nice to meet you” and a warm smile. My go-to welcome to new clients. There is nothing like a handshake and a smile with good eye contact to win em over.
Her eyes looked back at me saying “We have already met.”
I realize that I had cut her hair before. Granted, it was a long time ago. But come on. I’m an idiot. Shame started creeping back in but was intercepted by a sweep of self-preservation…..Skills I have developed from years of doing hair……Phrases like ‘Leave your bags at the door’ and ‘put on your gameface’ flashed through my head. I took a breath and breathed out slowly and silently ‘Be present.’ Okay. here I am. I find my footing.
“Oh yes! Hello. It has been a while” I said, noting the entourage of people she seemed to have along with her. A baseball-cap clad sister, an older man, a second young woman, and a tiny and good-looking baby. “welcome back” I said and I led her to my chair. As we walked back to my station, her sister followed behind.
The story I am about to tell pulled me back out of the little world that exists inside my head and into the world in front of me, where sisterhood and courage and solidarity and humility and letting-go-of-shit exists.
She sat down in my chair and with a touch of nonchalance and a smile, told me her story. As I worked my hands through her hair, recollections of her first haircut came flooding back. I didn’t remember the exact haircut itself, but the important events of her life that she had told me were as clear as day. She had been pregnant with her first child and had an cool and sordid conception story. She was a smart and savvy project manager in the tech world, she had a sister who had had an aggressive cancer and had permanently lost most of her hair with radiation treatments. Her sister and I exchanged a quick smile and introduction.
She brought me up to speed. Baby was born, healthy and sweet. She was about to start back at work. She had found a nanny that she really liked. She was here today to cut off all her hair to give to her sister. Her sister would have a wig-cap made with it to fill in the top of her head with her sisters beautiful silky hair that was essentially the same texture as her own hair, that now grew only on the sides and back of her head.
She was essentially radiating absolute resolve and excitement about going short for the first time in her life. And she was generously sharing an important and personal part of herself with her sister, who was visibly ecstatic to receive it. After years of baseball caps and wigs that never quite felt like her own, she was ready to adopt her sisters hair.
The vibe of these sisters was infectious. I felt absolute honor to be able to be a tiny part of this process.
We discussed a course of action. She had to take 18 inches off, and her hair was 20 inches long. We agreed that a pixie was her best bet to start with, and we discussed the grow out process and her excitement to go ShamPHree.
We would put her hair in many ponytails all over her head, and cut them off at the base, leaving 2 inches of her hair still on her head. Her tails would be neat and easy to transport and keep together for the wig-maker (guy on the east side, former wig maker for the Viennese opera?! hopefully more on this guy later!)
She would be left with a somewhat ragged looking hack-job. We would then create the perfect pixie cut for her fine hair and face shape.
All of the above happened while her sister and father stood by, excitedly snapping photos and giggling. Her sister playfully tucked a couple tales into her hat to try on her new hair. It looked fabulous.
I’m not sure what I loved more about this experience…..The strength and bravery of the giver of the hair, or the giddy excitement of receiver. I could see that I was bearing witness to a very intimate and unforgettable family event. God I love my job.
They all left together, with smiles abound and a brown bag full of 18 inch ponytails. I continued my day with a heart full of bubbly effervescence and lightness in my step. It was so simple. I had just witnessed the good stuff that life is made of. The meaning of life. Love really is the answer.
And at the end of the day, it’s only hair.
Please share this story if you know and love someone who has lost their hair. Thanks for being here!
I am a fan and a cancer survivor. I have been cancer free for five years now but the oncologists took my ovaries at 35. I am 44 now and I am the most vivacous girl you could imagine. I am a punk rock girl at 44.
When I wake up in the morning. I see old lady scary hair. Like, angel hair times 100. Scary frizzy angel hair.
Frizzy and ultra thin.
I know this must not be your specialty, but do you have any advice for a post-cancer girl?
I had brief chemo but the biggest impact on my life post-cancer was the oophorectomy.
I survived! Rules! But forever after I will have this silly lame-o hair. I have tried rogaine and all, but still, though I have blessedly have survived, I will still win.
I am 44 and maybe I am the girl that makes you think 44 is not so bad.
Well this is just awesome. I myself have never gone through chemo, but I have many loved ones and clients that have. Anyone out there have a similar story or advice to give? Do you know someone going through this right now? Share this post and let’s get some more stories shared and questions answered!