It had been yet another week of chemo and the hair had slowly fallen out, leaving splinter-like sensations on my patchy head. I had grown increasingly confident the last week as I was still marveling in my courageous decision to have my head shaved a few days earlier. I knew I wanted to be the first to alter my appearance before the chemotherapy did it for me.
Earlier in the week my daughter, barely 5 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, watched me with uncertain eyes. She stroked my head gently and asked me if it would hurt. She was referring to the moment when I’d shave my head and the long locks would fall to the floor by her feet. My hair had been my primary identifying feature for her as she would search the playground for mommy. It was this hair that she brushed and learned how to braid with. I saw in her eyes that she will miss it and was worried for me.
I knew this. I had foreseen her quiet, worried eyes and her gentle hugs so as to not break me after the lumpectomy. I knew that it was up to me to play this experience out with as much courage and compassion that was within me. I had vowed to myself that I would lead by example since before she was born and was still in my belly. I knew that I was responsible for bringing into this world a confident, compassionate and emotionally intelligent woman. That hadn’t changed. This was yet another opportunity for me impart my experience and shape her character.
I sat on the chair the following morning at Anton’s Hair Co. with Anton, a wonderfully generous and gentle man from Austria who started offering handmade wigs with your own hair and on the same day for cancer patients.
I sat there somewhat numb and dazed. I heard the buzz of the clippers and took a deep breath as I looked one last time into the mirror with my long brown hair across my chest. My daughter was standing near me, watching with those dreamy, brown eyes. I remembered my vow, my responsibility to her, and it gave me strength to see myself through her eyes. I straightened my spine, adjusted into the seat and smiled right at her.
I let out a squeaky exhilarated scream and said “Here we go!” I looked up at her through the mirror as the clippers buzzed across the back of my head. I showed no sadness, but instead an empowered energy that I can still feel inside of me one year later.
When I have to, I go back to this moment and breathe in her big, brown eyes. My heart meets my throat as I see myself through her eyes and that is when the tears swell in my own. I left that chair completely sure of who I really was, hair or no hair, and grateful that I could pass on this confidence to my daughter.