Coming out of the Cancer Closet

I’ve been struggling with coming to terms with my relationship with my hair. I’m not someone who spends a lot of time on my hair. Actually since I had kids I haven’t had the time or creativity to do much with it besides throw it into a ponytail. So I keep wondering why when I have such a big struggle ahead am I feeling so anxious about the inevitable loss of my hair. Really in the big scheme of things what is some hair loss?

About a month ago I cut my hair short hoping that it would help to transition from my shoulder length hair to no hair at all. Also I thought it would help my son adjust to what will be the new norm. When people find out I have breast cancer and little kids, the question of how to deal with the cancer topic with kids usually comes up. Then someone usually offers up a book or pamphlet that deals with cancer and hair loss that you can read to kids.

My daughter is so young she only has an intuitive sense of the world. She only knows a world where her mom having cancer. My son on the other hand seems to just take things in stride. After I cut my hair he happily declared that my head looks like a soccer ball. It was a brilliant move on his part because he not only made me laugh but he also told me (as only a three year could) that everything is fine and he’s on board with the change in hair style.

After some discussion about my fear of hair loss, my psychiatrist pointed out that my struggle might not be completely aesthetic. It’s really¬†about having to come out of the closet to myself and to everyone around me. Prior to shaving my head I could hide behind my hair and not have to face the hard truth that I have cancer every time I look in the mirror. With that in mind I decided I had to just stand up and face my truth.

I have to accept who I am, and face it with all the humour and warmth I could find. I set a date and decided to have a hair shaving party. I’m not someone who likes to be the center of attention so it surprised me a bit that I chose this path. Sitting in a room full of people who love you, joking and laughing is the perfect way to make what seems like a scary hurdle into a positive humour filled leap of faith. Really that defines this journey… Standing up and facing hard scary things and finding yourself with the love and humour of those around you… And everything is done as a giant leap of faith.

So here I am, bald and scared but all around me I feel love. It’s a big thing because it’s hard not to feel alone in moments like this, with all your vulnerability exposed for the world to see. But as Leonard Cohen says “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.

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