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Sometimes My Hair Comes Out Fine and Sometimes It Just Comes Out

Last year, I suddenly found myself paying closer attention to my looks. How do my clothes hang on me? Is my hair right? Do my eyes need more makeup? And donít forget the lipstick. These things only concerned me intermittently before, but now I thought about them continually. All the same, this didnít mean I went out to buy make-up or new clothes. My make-up had been waiting years to be used and new clothes would have been preposterous. After all, I planned to gain enough weight to fit into my old clothes. And I did. They just didnít fit the same way.

A friend said, ďI had no idea you were vain.Ē

Neither had I. But somehow my vanity became something to enjoy. Primping became my new adventure. My hair hadnít been short in years and now it was different, not so coarse, not so frizzy. I looked good, at least compared to what Iíd looked like recently. I began to like my curly hair for the first time in my life. What a strange little gift.

Hair became a focal point. Not just the hair on my head, but leg hair as well. The first time I shaved my legs after surgery, I rejoiced. Look, the hair said, youíre healing. You can grow hair. Shaving my legs had always been a chore. Not now. Now, itís a happily performed ritual.

My pubic hair is a different story. Like other parts of my body that have been poisoned, cut, and burned, it will never be the same again. I would like it to grow enough to hide the thickest part of my scars, but I will not begrudge it if it doesnít. My vanity is flexible.

I know Iím not the only one who spends an inordinate amount of time preparing to leave the house. When I pass a woman on the street with very short hair, I notice her. She almost always wears flawless makeup and her clothing fits well, if a bit loosely. Itís not just that her hair is short, itís that it has the look of having just grown out. My smile is always returned. We recognize each other. We take comfort in knowing we are not alone. Another strange little gift.

Inside the Womenís Health Resource Center at CPMC in San Francisco there is a boutique. There, one can buy scarves, turbans and hats. One can even have wigs styled. This is what I have been told; I never really entered the room except once to talk to a counselor. Thereís a big mirror inside. I remember glancing in the mirror while the counselor talked to me. I tried to ignore my puffy face and thought, ďAt least my hair came out all right today.Ē

My hair started coming out days after the first chemo treatment. I washed my long hair in the shower and my hands came away from my head filled with thick strings. I thought, ďOh, there it goes.Ē Iíd been waiting for that particular side effectóeveryone told me it was one of those things that would happen. Much more came out after the second treatment. After that, I asked my hairdresser to cut it short. The long hair in my hands was just too creepy.

My sister-in-law called me to say that I ought to buy a wig. I told her I hadnít lost my hair yet. She said I should get the wig anyway, before I was completely bald. She said something about no woman looks good without hair. I didnít agree with her. Iíd seen quite a few women without hair and some were stunning in their beauty. But for some inexplicable reason, I took her advice.

A blonde wig sits on a stand in my bedroom, waiting for me to put it on. Despite all that taxol, I didnít lose all the hair on my head and its curliness kept most people from noticing that I had lost any. So the blonde wig sits there, in the corner of my room, an abandoned prize of my victory. I want it to be wasted money.

My hair is gray now. I donít dye it anymore. I wonít. Why add more chemicals to the mix? Besides, I like the gray. Itís a sign that Iím getting old, which is something Iíd like to do.

Stephanie Strand was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a single mother of a son who is currently in the Air Force. Nine years ago, she joined the San Franscisco Writerís Workshop after writing short stories and poetry since she was a child. She is currently rewriting her science fiction novel, The Star of Danure.

Copyright © 2003 Stephanie Strand.