Cancer Lesson #52: Most people don’t care whether you have hair.
It was summer when I was in chemo, and as I said before, wigs are hot. So even though I saw Grandpa Byrd every time I looked in the mirror – minus the glasses and wad of chewing tobacco – mine adorned the newel post of our steps more often than my head.
Having chosen comfort before fashion many years ago, I usually wore a baseball cap when I went out of the house.
That’s how I learned what happens when a bald woman goes out in public.
The answer is not much.
I expected some staring and pointing. Maybe even lights and sirens.
But no one gawped. In fact, no one seemed to notice.
Even the children – who might understandably wonder about someone who looks a little different – took it in their stride.
I was just happy they didn’t run screaming to their mothers. 🙂
At the time, I thought this indicated a level of sensitivity and awareness that spoke well for the human race. Now I wonder if perhaps people are simply too busy with their own lives to care about another person’s lack of hair.
Either way, it was good to be reminded the world didn’t stop because I got cancer.
In fact, the whole time I was bald, there were only two people who stared. The first was a young man who emanated a kind of weird social misfit vibe. I gave him my best “What are you looking at?” glare and swept past.
You see, I’d forgotten my baldness and assumed he was merely being rude. Which he was.
The second time, I was working the children’s desk at the library. An elderly woman came in with someone who was obviously her caregiver – possibly her daughter – to find books the older woman might enjoy. “Daughter” explained that “Mom” suffered from dementia, and liked to look at the pictures.
“Mom” was intrigued by my lack of hair.
She asked, with genuine curiosity, “Are you a boy or a girl? Because you have short hair like a boy.”
The daughter was mortified, and tried to steer Mom to other topics, but Mom would not be deterred. She had a question, and she wanted it answered.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” she repeated.
I found it difficult to reply, mainly because I found it hard to stop laughing long enough to speak.
Her interest was so sincere and friendly; the memory still makes me smile.
Addendum: One thing many people don’t realize is when the drug companies list hair loss as a side effect, they don’t just mean the hair on your head. I was lucky enough to keep most of my eyebrows and lashes, but they did get much thinner. On the bright side, it was great not to have to shave my legs. They were smooth as a newborn’s cheek.
Also, some people have had success using cold caps during chemo to prevent hair loss. For me the thought of ice on my head – even for only a few hours every couple of weeks – was worse than the prospect of losing my hair.