Monday, September 1, 2008

HAIR - by Mary O'Rourke

Here's something my friend Mary wrote about yet another lovely side effect of chemo. Thank you Mary, for being my first official "guest blogger".
I have a bad comb-over. And I am not a used car salesman. I’m a middle-aged woman with male-pattern baldness.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a happy camper and a remarkably vigorous one for someone “living with cancer.” I bike, hike, paddle, ski and travel – with product, hair product that is. When I roll out of bed in the morning, I look like a cross between Albert Einstein and a crested grebe. The wispy bits of hair on top of my head stand on end. It takes time and product to get things slicked down and plumped up just right. Then I’m ready to face the world.

At the beginning, 15 years ago, I had great hair. Long, dark, thick and lustrous. Wore it down past my shoulders to make my skinny-haired sisters jealous. Then the doc announced I had the big C, breast cancer.

A momentous, movie-of-the-week moment. Some people worry about dying. Some worry that they’ll miss little Johnny’s graduation. Others fear spending all their time throwing up. Me, I wondered how I was going to handle the humiliation of wearing one of those creepy little cotton turbans that scream, “Look at me, I’m a pathetic sick person.”

So I got a list of the best rug experts in town. Number one fell way short of the mark. Tammy Faye and Loretta Lynn look great at the Grand Ole Opry, but don’t really cut it on Parliament Hill here in Ottawa. “Do you have anything shorter, more business-like?” I asked the girl. “Most people don’t care what kind of wig it is once their hair starts falling out,” she replied helpfully.

Luckily, when friend Martha and I finish laughing ourselves sick, we find Caralyn. Mature, wonderful Caralyn is a hairdresser with a separate entrance for the follicly challenged. In the inner sanctum, she tactfully suggests a chin-length brown bob. It has a few strands of grey woven in to match my natural colour. The con job works so well that I get far more compliments than I ever get on my real hair.

Fast-forward six months. Summer’s coming and I’m now so sick of the damn wig that I’m ready to embrace my inner skinhead. Which I do, until my hair finally grows back. Same hair, life goes on.

Until the next time, that is. Who knew that a persistent cough would lead to more adventures in hairdressing? But it does. I get a new wig, sail through treatment for the spots in my lungs. And then the cosmic joke strikes. Just as I’m admiring the hair growing in, I realize it’s re-arranged itself, without my permission!

It may not actually be male-pattern baldness, but thanks to the cocktail of chemicals I’ve been treated with, my hair is now thinner on the top third of my head than on the back and sides. Call me crazy, but this annoys me far more than the bone mets in my hip which were later treated, very successfully, with radiation

Well, as my friends say, bad hair is still way better than the alternative. But just in case, here’s how I want my epitaph to read: She died after a long and cranky battle with cancer and hair care.

Click here to read more about Mary (who just happens to look lovely with her less-than-previously-abundant pixie hair cut).

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