It’s been almost two and a half months since I shaved my head live on Facebook. I remember in those very early days seeing women sitting in the chemo waiting room with not a thing on their head. No scarves, no wigs, no hats…no hair. I thought, “Now THAT is bravery.” I wondered what it took to get to that point. I know we are dealing with a lot more than hair loss here. In many cases, we are fighting for our lives. Some, if not most of these women have already had surgery to remove one or both of their breasts. They are now hoping that chemotherapy and finally radiation, will kill what’s left of their cancer. Perhaps, for them, sitting in a waiting room full of strangers with a bald head is the very least of their worries. Maybe it doesn’t faze them at all, or maybe it’s a badge of honour. Whatever the case, in those early days, I thought it was brave. I couldn’t imagine myself doing the same thing.
Let’s fast forward a couple of months. I’m nearing the end of my chemotherapy treatment. (Chapter 1 as I like to call it). By the end of March, I will have completed my 8 rounds over 16 weeks. I’m getting used to being bald as well. At home, I rarely wear anything on my head unless I’m chilly. If people come over, I throw on a scarf. Walking the dog, I wear a toque but if I’m going to a restaurant, I wear the wig. I have different degrees of covering up my head depending on how “public” I am.
On occasion I have been brave enough to snap a photo of myself without anything on my head. Snapchat seems to be a great little resource for this considering the hilarious and beautiful filters at my fingertips. I’ve posted one or two and they seem to get a lot of positive feedback. I’m not sure if this is genuine support, or an understandable curiosity. You don’t see a lot of bald women. Maybe we should.
Recently I decided to document my current bald status in the form of a few portraits. The real ones, not the Snapchat filter variety. I’ve been assured that, as soon as chemo stops, the hair will start to return. Everyone says it comes back “even more beautiful”. I’m not sure if that’s exactly true. It’s like when people say it’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day. Sounds like a placation to me.
I have had a few professional shots done over the years. Some have been promotional pictures for The Weather Network, and some have been family photos to mark big occasions like my parents’ 40th and 45th wedding anniversaries. This time I wanted a few nice photos to remember this moment in my life. I wanted some with my daughters and a couple of me on my own. I wanted to emphasize the woman and mother side of me more so than the wife. This is the only reason my husband wasn’t included in this session. He was there of course, just not in front of the camera.
We asked a close friend if he was interested in doing this and thankfully he agreed wholeheartedly. He even got a make-up artist on board to help. Both volunteered their time and expertise to the project and I am most grateful. The shoot was done in the privacy of our friend’s home. That made things a lot more comfortable for everybody, especially me. Before this, it was always about having my hair exactly right in a photo. In this case, it obviously didn’t matter. The make-up was a bigger challenge. Because my daughter was home from school for the weekend, we ended up doing the shoot two days after chemotherapy. That’s a big deal. Two days after chemo, I’m not exactly at my best. But there I was, with my girls, smiling for the camera. At this point, my lashes and brows are mere shadows of their former selves. This means my eyes tear up like crazy all the time. And the fact that I have no nose hair means I always have to have a tissue on standby. I doubt Cindy Crawford had these troubles.
Despite not feeling well, I was happy to have the moment. Posing with my girls was actually a lot of fun and I enjoyed having them on either side, so close to me. I was literally surrounded by love and it felt wonderful. In the end, posing sans hair, was not as difficult as you might imagine. Our photographer had nothing but patience and a vested interest in having the photos reflect what I wanted.
Photo by Encyimages.com
Looking in the mirror is difficult for me some days. I’m trying to overcome the superficial toll that chemo has taken on me. I want to set a good example for my daughters. I’m digging deep to get past the ego and to understand that there is so much more to me than what is seen on the outside. Pretty seems like such a lame compliment these days. Maybe it’s because I don’t hear it as often. Instead I hear words like strong, brave, and inspiring. Those are compliments I rarely heard before cancer stepped into my life. It’s not a bad trade off when you think about it.
Make Up by @Nathymakeup Photo by Encyimages.com