This evening, I got my first haircut in 10 years. I was determined not to let cancer drugs rob me of my dreds, so with the help of a barber, I shaved my head and shed my locs. Of course the barber hesitated and questioned me about it; “you sure you wanna hair cut?”, “Bald??”, “How many years you’ve been growing them?”, “Why do you want cut your hair?” CHANGE. “It’s all about a major change in my life”, was my response, and so we began cutting.
I walked into the local barber shop with no problem. In fact, I was looking forward to getting my locs cut. I wanted to dive into this process and not think too long about about it. If I did, I think fear would probably have set in and I would’ve changed my mind at the last minute, delaying this process further. Though my chemo treatments don’t start for another week, I was eager to move closer ‘into’ the process and not remain on the periphery. The idea of waking up one day and seeing chunks of my hair on the pillow was not appealing to me. I think that would have sent me into a depression. I just didn’t want to wait, and needed to exercise some care around my emotional health during this process.
I’ve received nice notes and support from friends on Facebook about my cutting my locs. Everything from clips of India Arie’s song “I am not my hair” to words of wisdom like “hair is just an accessory”. All this is rational and true of course, but to a dred wearer of over 10 years, I really have become attached to them and what seems like a simple thing to many was actually a deep, soul-searching process for me. I only quickly arrived at a decision to cut them because again, I didn’t want it to fall out because of chemotherapy, and it ‘s also my way of showing solidarity with all those already stricken with cancer, especially women, who I know what a great challenge it is to lose their hair as a result of this hideous disease.
And so here I am, getting used to my new look. Bald. Last time I was bald was in 1988 when I enlisted in the US Air Force and entered boot camp. I hated it then, but now, I’m learning to like it and this surprises me. What helped of course was when I went to work and all the women nearly fell over themselves talking about how handsome I look, how much younger, and how they see more of my features. Ego boost is good, but I also have the possibility of losing my facial hair; eyebrows, mustache, eyelashes, chest hair, all hair. Wonder how handsome I’ll be then? Just a reality check-- but in the meantime, the compliments made me feel good and I really believe they were all sincere.
I’m still learning to embrace and even see the "new me" and living my new reality more and more everyday. It a process, but I've found an inner strength and peace, and it really helps to have a loving partner and family and so many great friends both real and virtual. I feel loved and I feel the angels around me.
Self-portraits with shaved head.
The New Me. Self-portrait showing my catheter implanted in my chest.
This entire journey thus far has been one of self-determination, resilience and empowerment. Despite all the challenges, I feel free.
OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
~William Ernest Henley. 1849–1903