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The Chemo Cut

Anticipation is often worse than the actual event. This has been true in many circumstances and yet I still get anxious and worked up. That’s how it was about getting my hair cut.

A favorite shirt from Natural Life

Some chemo patients don’t lose their hair. The chemo meds I take lead to hair loss. What a cruel thing, right? Only women get ovarian cancer, and we have a THING about our hair. My hair is typically up in a messy bun, so unless I have a speaking engagement or a special event, people don’t realize how long my hair is. It may be the longest it’s ever been, even longer than it was in high school. I was really enjoying it, especially when it was curled. The knowledge I would be losing my hair was a big deal to me, the girls, and Jose.

The hospital has a wonderful program, Brighter Image, which provides a free wig and consultation to help with selection. Sara came along as my fashion consultant. She had a blast, but it was emotional for me. A friend recommended getting a wig that didn’t look like my typical hair. In her experience, people smiled when they saw her in a fun wig, so we knew I needed a pink wig. I tried on a ton of great wigs, crazy wigs, and head coverings. Unfortunately, we didn’t take a photo of the black/blue Nikki Sixx wig, which yes, I considered getting for fun. We brought home a bag of coverings, wraps, pink & mint green fun wigs, 2 wigs I can wear in public or for an event, and a partial wig I can wear with a hat – it’s gray!!! For some reason, I think my hair will grow in gray after chemo, so I’m trying it on in preparation.

We came home and I was emotionally spent. Wearing the patient hat and mom hat at the same time is hard. Losing my hair is hard. Knowing I will have a bald head for months is hard, even with a bag full of great coverings. The girls were all fun and games trying on the wigs and laughing. We pretended we were a fierce all-girl rock band. We had a blast, and then I needed to put them away. It was another intense day feeling like cancer was inescapable. I was on day 5 post-chemo, not feeling 100% physically and definitely not feeling 100% emotionally.

Jose took the girls out for a while and I was able to let out all of the emotions. Big, ugly tears of sadness, grief, and loss. It’s not that I’m keeping my emotions from them, it’s more like I can finally exhale when they all leave the house. My game face is hard to take off. I’m working on it. All of this has happened so fast that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with reality, my emotions, and the knowledge of what is ahead. So much is scary and unknown. When will I lose my hair? When will chemo side effects become cumulative? Should I cancel my speaking engagements?

Blonde to feel a little more like me. Long for Jose. Bangs for fun.

Pink is my signature color. ~Steel Magnolias

Sara found a spot for her favorite wig that allows easy access for herself.

Our All Girl Rock Band - We can't decide on our name:

Synthetic or Blush & Bashful (another Steel Magnolias reference)

Apparently, a lot of the cancer journey is waiting. I remember waiting to schedule the first chemo. I wanted to plan, to know what to expect, and what it would be like. Then the minute I hung up the phone I was overwhelmed and wished I could go back to ‘ignorance is bliss.’ It turns out waiting may not be the hardest part, it’s simply part of the journey.

Waiting to see how my body responds to treatment; because every BODY is different as my nurse friend says. Waiting to see when my hair will begin to fall out. Waiting to decide when I will shave my head and begin wearing the wigs/coverings. Waiting to schedule chemo #2 and begin the whole process over again. Due to Covid staffing issues, the location I had my first treatment is temporarily closed, so I will go to a new infusion center. Waiting to experience another new environment.

In one of the cancer devotionals a friend gave to us, it talked about patience in the waiting. She reminds us of the truth that moments that test our patience are opportunities to be refined. The state of our inner selves is revealed. The red light, the unreturned call/email, the delay, they show us ourselves. They become an opportunity to grow in patience and acceptance. To acknowledge the reality that we don’t control the world and people around us. Darn it!!! The author says to say thank you to the red light because it gives us a chance to become more like Jesus. I’m not there yet, but I love the perspective shift. I’m all about converting challenges and hardships into opportunities for growth. I can inch my way toward her perspective, slowly. Progress, not perfection.

Getting back to my hair, a riveting story, I’m sure. To ease into the drastic change from long hair to a shaved head, I decided to get what I call the Chemo Cut. A transition hairstyle to help us adjust to me losing all my hair. Prior cancer patients showed me the value of this plan and I’m so glad we did it. My sister-in-law, a breast cancer survivor, was willing to do the honors. The girls got their hair trimmed first so I could hold onto mine as long as possible.

My Chemo Cut support team. Grandpa, Uncle David, (not pictured) Aunt Benita, Grandma, Auntie Frances, and cousin Steven even stopped by.

My mother-in-law wanted to make me something special. I said enchiladas or posole. She made both. I felt like a highly favored daughter-in-law.


The cut

It was emotional when the ponytail with 13 inches was cut off. Such a drastic change. There were a few tears, but everyone instantly started to compliment me, and I adjusted to short hair quickly. I felt lighter, and in a way, it felt like I had some control over the imminent hair loss. It would be healthy and strong when it fell out. It would fall out of cancer warrior Kirsten’s hair. There was something symbolic about that and it felt right. A friend called me that morning to encourage me, and I cried as she said my hair would be a blessing to someone. Someone who needed it would receive the hair from someone who has overcome and seen God redeem; she said her prayer was that a blessing would go with the hair and that the recipient would experience redemption too. It was a beautiful perspective that strengthened me and allowed me to release the hair I have loved but is not needed for the journey ahead.

So, the ponytail gets shipped out to someone who needs it. And I will enjoy my cute bob as long as I can.


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