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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

"How you doin?" in my best Wendy
Williams voice. This was August 2009,
right after I started chemo, at the wig
 salon where Wendy is rumored to shop!
Anyone who has read this blog knows how I feel about my hair. I was VERY sensitive about losing it and banned everyone around me from talking about hair--even if they were just complaining about their own hair! ("At least you have hair" is all I could think.) I have to laugh about it now because some of my friends still get nervous talking about hair around me since I've been known to flip out on them in the past...but hey, I'm a work in progress!

I'm not going to lie, hair was one of the first things I thought about upon my inital diagnosis. The idea of being bald frightened me almost as much as the cancer diagnosis itself. Today, although my hair has grown back and it's actually softer and healthier than it was before, I live in fear of losing it again, so I can't fully enjoy it the way I wish I could. Some days I still look in the mirror in shock to see actual hair growing out of my scalp! All those years I practically destroyed my hair by coloring it, relaxing it, flat ironing it, crimping it, braiding it and lamenting over the fact that it never looked the way I wanted it to, I never imagined that one day I might not have it. So I try to keep it all in perspective. Anytime I find myself complaining about my hair, I have to remember moments like the day I ran into a Rite Aid around the corner from my house practically in tears. It was an extremely windy day, and I was simultaneously trying to hold on to my wig and hold my skirt down from blowing up in the wind, so I ran into the drugstore to escape. I just knew everyone walking down the street could tell I was holding on to a wig. By the time I made it home that day I was a sobbing mess, terrified that my wig might somehow fly off in the wind (I realize now that probably wouldn't happen) and my skirt would fly up (probably could happen) and I would be exposed to the world.

Getting my hair braided before
the wig placement
So I was both amazed and inspired to see Diem Brown, former star of the Real World/Road Rules Challenge on MTV and two-time ovarian cancer patient document her hair loss with a video on People.com. Diem had beautiful long blond hair before she lost it to chemo back in 2006. I remember watching MTV as she removed her wig on national TV during a swimming challenge. Not having any idea I would go through the same journey a mere three years later, I remember feeling sorry for her and thinking, "Damn, I could never do that." Diem beat ovarian cancer, started an amazing gift registry for medical patients called MedGift and went on to become an entertainment host in LA...and her beautiful long blond hair grew back. I follow Diem on Twitter and when she reached the pinnacle five-year survival mark, I admit it, I was jealous. I was jealous that she could finally put the fear of cancer behind her and focus on more important things in the world like Kimye aka Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (I kinda love them together - it's like they're made for each other!) with her job in LA. So imagine my shock (and guilt) when I learned that Diem had relapsed--seven years after her initial diagnosis. This is NOT supposed to happen. She was a survivor! After five years you're supposed to be able to breathe easy and finally move on with your life. Unfortunately that was not the case.

The final result. I'm smiling because
I still have my hair and thought
I would never have to wear the wig.
Diem has been documenting her second battle with the big C with blogs and videos on People.com. She also went public with her controversial decision to delay treatment so she could harvest eggs first. Three years ago I might have said, "Girl, forget those eggs, you need to start chemo!" But now I get it. Cancer doesn't get to win. Having a family is so important to many people and by harvesting her eggs, she is doing what she feels in her heart is the right thing to do. In the video below, Diem shows how her hair starts to fall out after chemo and it's heartbreakingly real. I can't even begin to explain how horrible it was to look in the mirror and see an unrecognizable bald girl staring back. Honestly, I remember the day the last of my hair fell out and every day after that is like a blur...I literally don't remember how I looked without the wig...I must have mentally blocked out that visual. So I admire Diem so much for having the strength to put herself out there in such an incredible way.

Diem's video of the stages of hair loss during chemo:



And speaking of hair, I've been blogging for Carol's Daughter's new website TransitioningMovement.com about my own hair drama. They are launching a new web series for the website called THE CURL. It's the first show of its kind, a show that, when put together, defines, entertains and exposes viewers to natural hair terminology and hairstyles in a comprehensive way, while getting a sneak peek into the lives of women who share their own candid, incredibly diverse hair stories. This series is for every woman-sister-mother-friend who has ever wondered,“What exactly am I going to do with my hair?” and “How can I achieve my own, unique look? The series is launching next week!

Check out the trailer here: