Red Head

October 20, 2015

There were three weeks of buildup, to this moment. Fondly I brushed my orange, red hair, a tear slowly made its way down my face, and with it came the realization… I sat in the chair getting the last look of myself with my smooth, red locks. The wig maker began to shave section by section, careful to save every last strand. He was the last of his kind, an artisan from Osteria.
Anton started with my bangs which went just below my eyebrows. I remembered that four months ago I was concerned with how short my bangs were cut before homecoming. I thought about all the haircuts I had, realizing how little they meant when I was getting one of my last.
The next section that was severed was the sides. I longed for the hair that flowed since my youth. When I was a child everywhere I went people would stop me to tell me how beautiful my hair was. When I was with my mom in the checkout line at Costco, shyly hugging her leg while women gush over my red hair, telling me how special I was for being blessed with such gorgeous hair.
I wept for the loss of my identity and my youth. I had never known myself as anything other than a girl with long red hair.
My head was shaved, but there were still little stubs of hair that remained. It hurt; they were lodged in my scalp, ninety thousand little splinters whose goal was to aggravate me. Those nubs of hair that were once long and flowing drove me insane with the discomfort they brought. Losing the dusting of red that was painted over my pale scalp was harder than I could have imagined. I did have my wig yet, it was not the same. It itched. Wearing it was a constant reminder of what I had lost, and the pain that came with its creation. Although it was made of my own hair it was not me, it was only a feeble attempt to keep a part of myself I was not ready to let go of.
I could not deny the reality I was faced with. I had cancer. My treatment was short, a simple three months of chemotherapy.
New sprouts of hair began blooming all over my porcelain head. I adored them. Every night before I went to bed, I would lovingly rub hair growth oil on the buds, hoping it would somehow make a difference. The further out of treatment I was, the better I felt. As my hair grew back, so did my old self. I was once again a redhead, yet it was short lived. A mere six months after I was told I was in remission. I relapsed. I had to lose my hair. Again.
This time around was not so simple, five months of extreme chemotherapy, including a month in the hospital, and four weeks of radiation.
Three weeks after the start of my second round, my hair once again began to fall out. I laid in my hospital bed surrounded by fallen hairs. I knew that there was no point in trying to keep the inevitable from happening. My hair was merely a price that I needed to pay for my health. I had already lost my youth to this dreadful disease. I had grown up. I asked the nurse to bring me a razor. I went to the bathroom, razor in hand, to shave myself back to where I was eight months ago. I stood there, and I shaved my head. I took control. Not a tear was shed; I had no reason to cry. I knew who I was: a strong, brave girl who would no longer be defined by what she look like. I was ready to face cancer once again.
Shannon Keating