Cancer and Hair Loss are traumatic experiences that combined makes a tough battle. This is the third part in a series of three where Anne Sarte tells about her journey.
Dealing with Cancer and Hair Loss Part 3
The barber who had shaved the last vestiges of my pre-cancer hair had already left for the evening and I was trying to get accustomed to walking around the house bald. So this is how it feels, I thought. I wish I could say I felt all my hair standing on end, but I had no hair! The sensation came from the pores on my scalp that became ultra-sensitive to the air around me.
When I lay on my pillow that night, the top of my head felt really cold. I used to always have the airconditioner on every time I went to sleep, but that night, I could feel the cold seep through my scalp. I thought I had a fever so I got a beanie and put it over my head the rest of the night. Sleep was elusive that first night because the beanie kept slipping off my head as I turned on my pillow.
Everything, including the scarves I used to cover my head during the daytime, had a hard time staying on. My scalp seemed to take on a slippery feel much like a crystal ball. During the one time that I wore a wig when I went out, I felt my scalp was on fire because the wig was so hot! That was the last time I wore that nasty headpiece and finally decided to go au naturel.
I really cannot understand how Dwayne Johnson, Andre Agassi, or Michael Jordan – who are on the list of the hottest bald men of all time – can go around in public without any problem, while people who go bald because of cancer cause others to feel so uncomfortable. And for most people with this disease, cancer and hair loss go together, so there is not much to do about it.
This double standard had to stop and I thought of doing something about it. I got my smartphone and took a couple of selfies when no one was looking and surprised everyone on Facebook the next day with my clean-shaven pate. Before that time, only my family and a couple of friends knew that I was diagnosed with cancer so when the rest of the world got in on my secret, I received a mixture of reactions from everyone on my list.
To this day, I remain extremely grateful to family and friends who, despite their initial surprise, poured out their love, support and prayers. They sent me messages on my Facebook wall and in my inbox. Some sent me books to read and lots of food to eat. While many were generous in their encouragement and support, some became stoic and did not know what to say. It seemed as if my coming out bald in a public space was an affront to them and someone even told me to take my photo down.
It is true that challenges bring out the best or worst in people, and life events show you who your real family and friends are. That period was the moment of truth – when I started to see the true colors of the people around me and it was both enlightening and liberating at the same time. Before my illness – and before you could see it on me – I was slim and fit, on top of my game, and was doing the rounds of international real estate and financial services.
When I fell ill and was undergoing chemo sessions, I became weak and very sickly because my immune system had buckled down. I had lost a breast and all my hair, yes, but I was, and still am, the same person inside.
I don’t think anyone’s self-worth should be defined by how one looks, or may appear to look like, at a particular time. After all, beauty, like time, is fleeting but the true essence of a person is found deep within.
In my battle against cancer, I learned seven important lessons that I always go back to until this day:
- The greatest investment you can make in your life is the time you spend with your loved ones, for you do not have forever to be with them.
- The second great investment that we always neglect is our health – we work so hard for money and comforts when we are young, but we spend so much to get our health back when we grow old.
- The people who stick by you in good times and in bad are the only people you really need in your life – the rest are just like driftwood, waiting to be washed over again to another shore.
- We learn to value people or things only when we lose them. I appreciated my body more when I lost my health. I learned the value of my hair when I felt cold and bare. I realized that every function of my body that I took for granted before was important to my well-being. I became aware of the full worth of every single day that I was alive, and was thankful for each moment with my loved ones.
- Do not give anyone permission to pull you down. Each one of us leads unique lives, and no one should ever be allowed to mess with yours.
- My hair mirrored my life. Setbacks were temporary. I learned that even as it went through the entire catagen phase of slowing down and breaking at the roots, it had to go through the telogen process of being wiped out much like a purging of the bad things in my life. It was an inconvenient necessity but it made me look forward to experiencing a rebirth and moving on to its anagen stage when everything starts anew.
For my physical body to heal, I also had to heal myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I had to forgive myself and others for past mistakes, let go of the negativities in life, and surrender myself to the one true God who created me.
Text by Anne Sarte
This was the last part in a series of three.
Photo credits: cea + via Flickr
liz west via Flickr