The Releasing of the Hair to the Mermaids-Creating Traditions, Memories and Hope
The minute you hear chemo you instantly ask “Will I loose my hair?”
(I did!) It’s what we imagine when we think of cancer and chemo. We have either known someone who has battled Breast Cancer or we are living with it ourselves.
The current statistic is “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.” This touches near to home for many of us.
I had all the “stereotypical thoughts” of what chemo would be like and I knew full well after a meeting with my medical oncologist that my hair would be lost. I was heart broken and devastated! Everyone’s journey in battling cancer is personal. From the day you start your “Breast Cancer Battle Plan”- honoring yourself, your journey and creating traditions around what matters to you becomes your mantra for life! It’s what gives you hope and carries you through your days.
I had to make peace with how I would cut my hair, when I would cut it, would I do a crazy hairstyle, shave it, go bald, wait for it to go naturally and the list goes on and on. Chemo number one had come and gone and the hair would be slowly coming out soon. Onward and upward looking to traditions of women before me who had gone bald (Bald is beautiful), done crazy colors , worn wigs, done hats and had many ways they had honored themselves. Creating ideas that I would now be looking towards for inspiration.
Next came the preparations for hair loss. Trying on hats, wigs and scarves at the H.R. Hoover Cancer Center, hats were ordered, a wig was bought (even though I said I wouldn’t do it), a wig brush, fake eye lashes and even fake eyebrows. All the thoughtful gifts a “Breastie” (Best Friend on your journey thought Breast Cancer) thinks of while you are taking it all in. My breastie didn’t miss a thing!
When? How? What was I going to do with my hair? I was in denial! I figured if I didn’t think about losing my hair it wouldn’t happen. It was my coping method at the time coming out of “Breast Cancer Boot Camp.” Your head is consumed with appointments, port placement, first chemo (where hair comes out about two to three weeks later, depending on the person) and geting to know your body post chemo.
I couldn’t wrap my head around being bald or was it I couldn’t wrap my head around losing my hair I had for 45 years of my life. I would countdown after my first chemo, how many more shampoos do I have until I have no hair. I stopped blow drying it, looking at it and styling it. I was “detaching” from what was to what would be. I was mourning my hair.
I decided I would cut it short as my hair started thinning. I put that off for a weekend because it was more then I could handle.
I had another friend (husband of my breastie) plan to shave his head in solidarity. When I was finally “ready” he went first. I watched intently and sadly.
Now it was my turn. My 11 year old daughter and her best friend were involved. We made two ponytails and the girls each cut one, as tears rolled down my cheeks. I looked at myself before and after and mourned my hair. It was done! Now there was no looking back, only forward!
How would I honor my amazing hair that I loved? We made a plan with the Mermaid loving littlest members of my Breast Cancer Support team. We would make a special trip to the coast to “release my hair” to the mermaids. My daughter was sure Oregon Coast mermaids would love to use it for their own!
On a cold, rainy and beautiful day I set off in search of the Oregon Coast with my “breastie”, three very excited children in search of Mermaids and a plan for a ceremony to release the hair. This would be the closing of this part of my Breast Cancer Journey!
Everyone clipped a tiny lock of hair from their head to combine with my whole head of newly shaved hair. This turned a painful event into a peaceful occasion. We all joined together and released the hair to the sea!
The last of what was my hair…goes out to sea for a Mermaid, we hope to create it into something more beautiful then it was on me…..
What an amazing way to let my hair go… a strand of everyone’s hair was also placed in our “Mermaid Jar” along with grains of sand from the beach.
Much love to you all for making what was the hardest part of the journey thus far happen with peace and grace……For the Mermaids of the ocean it belongs to you.
Here is to making traditions, creating ceremonies and new memories, honoring things we fear and to letting go even when sometimes it feels as if we can’t.
Nova A. will be writing a weekly blog in the month of October. October is breast cancer awareness month. Please help us welcome and support Nova during her journey.