EDITOR’S NOTE: Beautypendence brings you the final installment in this three-part series about growing back hair after chemo. (See first post about my mom’s experience here, and second post from Sarah, a firsthand account here.)
Mary Beth is best friends with one of my college roommates, Leslie. I’ve always known MB as fun-loving, witty and beautiful. Cancer hasn’t changed that one bit. She and I share a love of film, but Mary Beth actually gets to work in the biz. However, her healthcare coverage isn’t ideal for cancer treatments. Last weekend her friends hosted a benefit in Austin in her honor that I was unfortunately out of town for. However, we can all still help her out by making a donation! I asked Mary Beth if I could share this Paypal link with my readers. I know any amount you contribute will be greatly appreciated. And now, her story, in her words.
In May 2012 at the age of 36, I was diagnosed with Stage IIIe Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. My first thought was: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13). It was a scripture I would repeat many, many times over the next year. And with that, my battle with cancer began.
Ever since I can remember I’ve been known as “the girl with the pretty, long blonde hair.” I’ve spent many nights as a child, squirming in my chair while my mother painstakingly rolled my hair in pink spongy rollers, in hopes that I would wake up with a head of curls like my fellow cheerleaders.
My freshly shorn chemo buddy, Jan, gleefully told me that Day 16 is “the day” when you lose your hair. Day 16 came and went without incident, and I smugly reported to my mother that clearly the Red Devil (hydroxydaunorubicin, the chemo drug responsible for hair loss) had decided to spare my precious locks.
Day 17 I woke up and ran my hands through my hair – and pulled out a sizeable chunk. It had begun, and there was no stopping it. As my friend Sarah, a two-time breast cancer survivor at the age of 33, often says, “and they shall know me by the trail of my hair.”
My film industry contacts sent me to their favorite wig shop, Sunny’s Wigs. It’s a small, unassuming place on a busy street in Austin, but man, the selection! My mom surprised me by pre-shopping for wigs while I was at work one day. She even found a young girl shopping in the store and coaxed her to try them on and let her take pictures! I was amazed – it looked just like me! Note to the young girl: whoever you are, you’ll never understand the act of kindness you did that day for me, and my mom.
I decided if I was going to lose my hair then it was going to be by my own hands, or at least at the skilled hands of someone I trusted! Over the next few weeks, I visited my hairdresser and tackled my hair loss in “stages”, just like cancer. (I thought this was pretty clever, but I think my jokes made a lot of people uncomfortable. Those same people disappeared from my life when I was completely bald, by the way). The Stage I cut was to my shoulders, Stage II was to my chin, and Stage III was the grand finale – the big shave! (I refused to have a Stage IV hair cut. Too ominous.)
My wig’s name was (is!) Malibu Tasha, and she remains part of my life to this day. Her appearance is often requested at parties and luncheons. She has turned many of my friends – gals AND guys – into a cute, dirty blonde with a chic, chin-length bob.
Post-treatment, my hair is completely different in every way. It grew back short, dark brown (nearly black), very thick and wavy! When it’s humid, I even get the ringlets I so desired long ago. I have to confess that the moment my oncologist said it was ok, I went back to blonde (think Michelle Williams pixie). Sorry, folks, but if there’s one thing I have always been and will remain, is a blonde.
What do I see today when I look in the mirror? A fighter. A survivor. A person who is loved so much by so many people. A child of God. Bald or not, that’s me.
Images: Self-portraits courtesy of Mary Beth, Bridesmaids by J. May Photography