Wet shower tiles with hair stuck to the wall in the shape of a sad face


Last updated: May 2022

After two weeks of chemotherapy, I had started to wonder if it was going to happen, was my hair going to fall out? At first, my hair seemed as strong as ever. Since I heard my cancer was back, I had been growing it out, knowing the day would come that I would lose it.

Growing up

It was now the longest it had been since I was a young girl, and my mother was in charge of its length. She had lived vicariously through me and wanted to make up for the bad bobs she had as a child. I hated it back then. All I wanted was one of the short permed haircuts like Molly Ringwald that were so in style in the 80s; she wasn't having it.

I got my first trim from a second-grade babysitter without my mother's consent; suffice to say, we didn't return to her for a while. I remember my hair getting stuck and ripped out in the screws in the school desks. I would sit on it at its longest, which could get awkward.

I was born a towheaded blond, but that hair had turned into what my mother had lovingly called a "dishwater blond" by elementary school, which I loathed.

My high school hair

So by high school, I became, let's say, experimental with my hair, sometimes changing the color two or three times a week. Cutting it shorter and shorter as I went, all in rebellion against my mom. It never worked, she always said I looked cute. I finally settled on a bleach-blond A-line which I kept until the cold weather came.

I had never felt the icy cold sting of winter on my bald neck before. It sucked then, and I don't have any interest in it now. I did keep the bleach blond so the "dishwater" would never see the light of day again. The blond hair was such a part of me that in 25 years since I only went up two-and-a-half shades.

So when I found out I was going to do chemo and I was going to lose my hair, I thought dyeing it magenta would somehow make it easier for me. As if I was cutting off someone else's hair. I was wrong.

The inevitable

My oncologist told me I would inevitably lose my hair around the 4th week after starting IV chemo. So when my hairbrush started clogging up around the third week, I knew to be ready. However, I was not prepared for the horror show in the shower a week later when visiting some friends in Sacramento. Why on earth would I choose red for the color of my hair?

I prayed with every move of my fingers, every jagged fingernail snag, that I could get through the conditioner and keep enough hair from falling out to look normal for a few more days. I didn't want to mess up their drains, but the red hair flowed like blood dripping from my hands, I needed to do something with the telltale evidence, so I stuck the deluge of hair to their ivory white walls.

Memories of my life with my hair flashing before me. The color did not change the fact that this was my hair. It looked like a murder scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie, which would need to be cleaned up by the time credits rolled.

My only choice

Then there were the knots, big massive rats nests that got worse as I tried to untangle them. I wasn't prepared to shave my head yet, so I got out of the shower, yelled to my friends for help, and a pair of scissors to start chopping large chunks of hair that I had spent years growing, watching them literally go down the drain. A punch to the gut but my only choice. By the time I was done, I had a two-leveled haircut. The top was short, and the bottom went long down my back.

What was I going to do? My friend, thank God, had a clearer head than I. Paul looked at it and suggested cutting the long part to match the rest. Anything sounded better than the extreme mullet I was rocking now, party in the front, Pentecostal in the back. Only he didn't want to have anything to do with it.

However, his husband Mark, who was already lubricated with a few cocktails, volunteered. This, I thought to myself, was not a good idea. "Do it," I said, handing him the scissors. Sometimes bad ideas are all you have.

Temporary hair style

It actually looked decent in the end. Mark had pulled off a shoulder-length cut that looked something like the Rachel from the 90s. This got me through most of the following week. A week full of loaded hairbrushes, clumps falling out in my hands, and dwindling ponytails. But I was waiting for the perfect moment to cut my hair.

This was important, and I wanted to get it right. I am stubborn, and I would do it my way even if it meant dealing with my hair falling out for an extra week.

Please find out how what happened in my next article.

Editor's Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on September 6, 2023, Vicki Thompson passed away. Vicki's advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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