Sunday, January 30, 2011

Seeing myself for the first time.

The day of my haircut I was hardly in a good state of mind. I was still experiencing pretty severe side effects, my stomach was in a knot, and the last thing I wanted to do was cut off all my hair. I had to mentally prepare myself to get out of bed, shower, and put on a decent looking outfit so we could make our 12:00 appointment at Jeff Berry and Brian Blanchard's home. Once we got into the car, I started feeling better. I think the laying around and sinking into my bed to rest has been helpful in allowing my body to heal, but in some ways it has not helped my overall mental state of being.

As we started to approach their home, I had this burning desire for a chocolate milkshake. I called out to my parents, they looked at me like I was crazy, and they quickly turned the car around in search of the first McDonalds or Baskin Robbins. If I ever was going to splurge on a chocolate milkshake, it was going to be today. I needed that shake, like a parched mouth needed water.

All my concerns about whether my stomach could handle the dairy, and handle the fat fell by the wayside. I started gulping it down like it was going out of style. Some may call this emotional eating, but when you haven't had a real meal in 6 days, a chocolate milk shake is simply a necessity.

We arrived at Jeff and Brian's home and they greeted us with open arms. Jeff and Brian live together, and give haircuts and provide human hair wigs to patients going through chemo. The service they provide is both critical, and honorable.   The two of them, walked me through every step of the process. They spoke in low and soothing tones, as if they were rocking me to sleep.

I knew I wanted to donate my hair to locks of love, so the first order of business was to rubber band every section of my head in order to maximize my donation. Some clients come in and have a series of haircuts so they have a better understanding of what they will look like post chemo. For me, it was more important to give back, than to have a sense of what I would look like after treatment.

Once my hair was tied up in sections, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and Brian slowly started cutting. One piece at a time, my hair fell gracefully to the ground.

I inhaled and exhaled deeply and felt this unusual sense of calm as he slowly clipped away the years of growth.  The calmness I experienced was like no other. All of my troubles, nerves and fears slowly were dissipating with each cut.  I was breathing fuller, deeper, and with each breath I was getting stronger.

I opened my eyes and saw my head covered in jagged edges. I looked deeply, and actually liked my reflection. Brian continued, telling me that my hair was just going on a vacation, and that I would join her soon enough.

He then brought out the razer.  I started to tear up, and then managed to control the images of persecution and victimization the sound of the razor conjures up for me. I breathed into it those images, and released them- quickly.

I closed my eyes- reopened them- and stared back at a beautiful bald head.  I wasn't scared of what I looked like- but rather I felt I was seeing myself for the first time.

I never knew what my head looked like under that mop of hair.  i had no idea how little my ears were, or how smooth my head really was. There were no noticeable distortions or discoloration, just roundness.

Brian immediately put on my new wig, and I had almost asked him not to move so fast. I wanted a moment with myself. I wasn't scared of who was staring back at me, but rather was getting to know her for the first time.

Eventually Brian placed the wig on my head, and I looked like I did when I walked into his home. The experience had come full circle.

When I left Jeff and Brian's home, I ran my fingers through my new locks, and then immediately ran upstairs to my room to stare at myself in the mirror. I couldn't stop looking at my baldness, at my strength, at my will to live.

The fight in me was so apparent, was so pronounced, was so present-  I felt invincible.

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