I have kept my sense of humor throughout the process of my brain tumor including the surgery, which resulted in truly the worst haircut I have ever received in my life. It was even worse than the one that I had sixteen years ago when I decided to go really short because I was a new mom and I thought it would be cute, stylish and low maintenance. It was not. I was so upset, my eyes were full of tears over said haircut, which caused me to run into the garage, scraping the molding off of the car and causing several hundreds of dollars in damage.
At Vanderbilt, I was under the impression that I would receive something a little more stylish at the whopping price of $247,000. Apparently Neurosurgeons are NOT stylist. I know, I am as baffled as you are! What I received was a shaved down to the scalp 3″ x 7″ strip and of course the removal of about 98% of the brain tumor (you know the most important part). Obviously I wasn’t too concerned about my hairstyle at the time. It wasn’t until I was released from the hospital, just two days after brain surgery (I spent more time in the hospital after having my babies). I couldn’t wait to take a shower and as the struggle for myself and my husband to wash and rinse ALL of the blood from my hair continued on for several days and remained an issue after subsequent showers and having such thick hair, I was very uncomfortable.
I called in a request to Adam, my hairstylist of many years who also cuts my daughters’ hair and has become a dear family friend to ask if he would let me come in after hours to shave the rest of my hair off. I felt like getting a clean shaven head would just make things easier as I would just start fresh and new. He was nervous and I can’t blame him. He’s a very chill guy and one of the coolest people I know, but I’m sure looking at the scar on my head was pretty intimidating and if I’m being honest, really, really gross. My family was there, I sat in the chair and he started with scissors and cut shorter and shorter until we decided that the trimmer and the vibration might be too overstimulating for my head since I was just a few days post-op and I was feeling pretty nervous. I left there looking like the character, Hannah from Girls when she had her mental breakdown and decided to cut her own hair. Ever seen baby bangs? Adam felt horrible, but I told him I didn’t care because I really didn’t. The weight of the hair was off so that I wouldn’t have to lay around after a shower on a wet or blood soaked pillow and it would make life easier. I was covering my head with a scarf in public any way to keep from getting a possible infection to the incision. I was paranoid that someone was going to sneeze on me….ah the life of a severe germaphobe! Too bad that part of the brain wasn’t removable along with the tumor.
Then I had my sixteen year old daughter take a crack at my hair because there were just sections that I still felt like needed to come off because I was still trying to get clumps of dried blood out of my hair. I wish they had provided me with a brochure upon my release from the hospital with all the details: “So You Just Had Brain Surgery: The Guide To Wash and Wear Your Hair”.
My cousin and aunt drove up from Texas to help my family and myself out. They were incredible, helping all of us, bringing some normalcy and much needed laughter. I even got to spend my birthday with them, which was very special. There has been a long standing joke in our family about my Aunt Mary cutting my hair throughout my childhood, causing me to look like my brother’s twin brother. My cousin, Missy doesn’t get grossed out by anything as she is a medical professional, so I convinced her to take a crack at shaving some of the hair off that was still bothering me with the trimmer and she did.
Move on a few weeks and into radiation I went. The Radiologist informed me that I would lose some of my hair, he referred to them as some small bald spots that wouldn’t be permanent. Small, my ass! I had the balding from incision, then the balding that continued on from there forming an even larger bald spot on the side of my head and with one little strip of hair dividing it into another large spot to the left, back side of my hair and a bald spot on the right side. I look like I’m all made up to play a character in the Mad Max sequel.
Cue the chemo, which they said I wouldn’t lose my hair, maybe just some thinning, but I was shedding like a dog.
Another call to Adam and out he came to my house to have dinner with my daughters and I and then he asked what we should do. We agreed to go really short. We went out to the garage where I sat next to our deep freeze on a stool and he shaved my head with the trimmer down to a three. We laughed, talked about things we would normally talk about if I were in the chair at the salon, and it felt normal and surreal at the same time. I said, “Adam, after all this time, I could have never imagined that one day we would be in my garage, laughing it up as you shave my hair because I have brain cancer” to which he didn’t miss a beat, “Girl, me either”. We both laughed because in all honesty, what else was there to do?
He swept the hair out of my garage into the yard where I declared that it would be great fertilizer. The next day my kids were in the yard and I pointed out the hair pile to them, to which they were both relieved because they thought it was a dead animal.
As the thin hair has grown out over the weeks, my hair follicles began to hurt, sensitivity from the radiation to the scalp, laying on the pillow, wearing scarves and hats were all causing me discomfort and even more balding occurred, so again, off to Adam’s chair I went. He shaved me down to a one instead of bald. He isn’t a barber, so the state of Tennessee cannot allow him to use a straight edge razor and my platelets have dropped, so I cannot risk any nicks, cuts, bruising, etc. I have a bit of a mohawk, a bit of a grandpa balding, and the scar, so instead of a G.I. Jane I call mine the Frankenhawkpappy cut. Be sure to look for that on all the runways this Fall. I just know this look will catch on!
When I decided to write this piece, I began going through so many photos and remember how much I used get annoyed with my hair. I’ve had blonde hair, red hair, chestnut hair, brown hair, black hair, hair with highlights, short hair, medium hair, really long hair, and rarely ever had the same haircut twice in my life and now I’m pondering what I ever hated about my hair. As much as I would love to write that it wasn’t a bit emotional to look back at these photos of the person I was before, it’s also been very therapeutic to embrace what is happening in my life now and proving that once again, I am an overachiever even at balding. I guess I can call this good hairapy.
I hope you will enjoy and laugh along with me at the photos I’m sharing here. I also offer this apology to my Aunt Mary. I promise the next time you visit, I will let you cut my hair.
Melissa T.May 29, 2017 at 2:47 pm
Kristie, your humor and outlook is a beam of light for others who have struggled with cancer and chemo, or for others who may in the future. You are an inspiration for so many. Like Audrey Hepburn said, “FOR BEAUTIFUL EYES, LOOK FOR THE GOOD IN OTHERS. FOR BEAUTIFUL LIPS, SPEAK ONLY WORDS OF KINDNESS. AND FOR POISE, WALK WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.” You are so beautiful… hair or no hair. xoxo (a Hairy beautiful person and friend) 😉