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Monday, September 2, 2013

Chopping It All Off: Screw You Chemo, My Hair, My Way, My Time.

All girls twirl their hair, its just what they do. A lot of people can take it to mean that they're nervous, or bored, or its just a habit. I love my hair. I absolutely consider it a huge part of the reason I am who I am today. I mean, I wasn't called "Sorority Barbie" in high school because I was a brunette who was socially inept. Social stereotypes aside, there's nothing I love more than throwing in a good old "Ooops, Blonde Moment." I've never dyed my hair because I never wanted anything else. I've always loved it, just the way it is. So getting my hair cut = nerve wracking. I go to reach for it to twirl and its barely there.
With all this being said, think about society and how it reacts to quite simply: hair.
In university I conducted a social experiment. BOYS! I wanted to see how boys react to different looks. I had the ability to do this because my hair was short at the time. Very short. I could whip in extensions, throw on a wig and with in seconds, transform my look. Now granted this wasn't a top notch academic study, I understand lots of variables were at play but it was fun none the less. I would go to the bars with the girls, and try different combinations to see how they affect the opposite sex.

Long hair, with flats.
Long hair with heels.
Short hair with flats.
Short hair with heels.
etc. etc. etc.

Guys don't really care what shoes you're wearing. In all honesty they probably don't even notice. What they do notice is whether or not you can actually walk in them. You look like an idiot if you can't. Just watch Bambi stumble to the bar to order another drink, that's not a model strut, that's inexperience and alcohol hunny, take off the damn shoes. This is besides the point. Realistically, guys flocked to me when I had my extensions in. When I was bartending, the nights I wore my extensions I made double the tips. Something about longer hair excites men. Check out Maxim's top 100- how many girls have short hair? SIX, and 4 of those 6 are still to the shoulders.
*Both Bartending shifts on Halloween below with extensions in*

My main conclusion, was that people are superficial, not just guys. However, maybe not totally superficial in the off chance that there is one variable that really affects this... confidence? Was I just predisposed to believe that I looked better when my hair was longer because that's how it had always been?
*Me- very little*
*Me at approx 11 years old.*
*Grade 8 and 9*

Confidence is what made the difference and my long Victoria's Secret model hair gave me confidence that was magnetizing. SO my point, being a 15 year old girl and losing your hair = devastating.

I liked being an inpatient in the hospital because of my hair, or lack thereof. Nobody wasn't used to seeing a bald girl, so it wasn't unusual to see me prancing around looking like a member of hells angels. As soon as I stepped out into the real world, I was different. My lack of hair made it very obvious something was wrong with me, which made it more apparent that I was the "sick girl". Even while in the hospital, there came a point where I wouldn't allow visitors anymore. I didn't want them to see me at my worst, I didn't want them to see me ... ugly.
I wanted to be remembered like this, which was conveniently taken a week before I was diagnosed the first time.
Not like this...

I lose my mind when people say to me, "its just hair." Ok then, go ahead, shave your head. Now I know people who have just up and shaved their heads. A girl I went to high school with just did to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life, in honor of her mom. She looks INCREDIBLE and I wish I had her strength. However, not many of us could do that. Yes it grows back, but it takes time. Years.

It sucks that I'm admitting, that my confidence comes from my hair, but it does. (RATED R ALERT) My favorite sex scene of all time is a girl, riding a guy, and she leans down to kiss him. As she's coming back up, her hair flies up and over her head and she shakes it out of her face. A few strands cover her tatas and it is the epitome of "freshly f#@$%@" hair. Just think Christian Grey, braiding Ana's hair. Long hair is a symbol of sexuality. This is why its SUCH a big deal when female celebs chop their hair off. Anne Hathaway, Demi Moore, Kelly Pickler. It gets plastered on tabloids and becomes first rate celebrity news, because its not the norm. Call me a conformist, but hair, this stuff, helps me to feel like I fit in. I have no problem being my self and being different in a world where everyone is trying to be someone else, I just don't want to be "different" because of my look, my hair, being the sick girl.

We all want to feel beautiful. I had one boyfriend J, tell me to stop wearing my extensions because he liked me just the way I was. I also had another boyfriend, whose initial I'll leave out because as much as this hurt and I know he scarred me with this one, I don't harbor resentment. I caught him with another girl. I was fresh out of treatment, fresh out of confidence and in a really low place. He told me, and I'll never forget this
"It's not that I don't love you, I'm just not attracted to you anymore."
We stayed together for a while after this, because I loved him with my whole being. He broke me with that one statement. He reduced me to appearance after we had been together for a while and my view on life was forever changed. This person who had been my rock for so long in an instant became a rock crusher. I've said before, "the treatment hurts, it sucks, but if I didn't lose my hair, I could do it easily." I think this all stems back to that moment with that love who showed me how superficial this world really is. I laugh because another boyfriend broke up with me because I was "Too Marilyn and not enough Jackie for where he was at that point in his life". I took that one as a compliment.

People can say, wigs. I used to refuse the "W" word when I was first sick. I hated it. Wigs are hot (as in heat), they are mind numbingly hot. They are continual hot flashes on your head. They are itchy. They never look right. They are a pain in the @$$ to wash and style. Lady Gaga makes it look easy- its a lie. On top of that, they never stay where they are supposed too. I would ALWAYS have a headband or hat or something holding it in place, which added to the extreme heat. Even with my extensions, I added something.
*Brunette wig, which I clearly didn't pull off very well and then blonde extensions*

After my first bout with cancer, I was with my ex T, on our lake. He had friends up, a few were couples. We all went wakeboarding, and they weren't that good. I knew I wasn't a pro, but was way better then a first timer. I had to risk though, going in wearing my wig. I could have taken it off but I didn't want to embarrass T, by having him have a bald ugly girlfriend. It was bad enough the steroids to save my heart after heart failure had made me fat, I didn't need to be bald too! I took my chances, jumped on the board and gave it my all. It went really well for the first bit and they were impressed. Then I caught my front edge. The board dug in to the water flinging me forward. I hit the water and my wig flew off. I wanted to drown right there in that second. Tangle my self in the weeds and hide. I only had a few choices and the one I went with: pretend like this is not big deal and I'm not bothered. I could have cried, I wanted to cry, I could have made a big scene, I could have played the victim, but I knew I needed to retreat into my self and harbor the biggest amount of self loathing I had ever experienced until later. When T brought the boat around, everyone was quiet. I threw "cousin it" into the boat and tried to pretend like it didn't bother me. No one said anything, because obviously, that wouldn't have been right on any level but I knew what they were all thinking. A mash of pity, embarrassment, wow she's stupid, WTF. When we got back to the cottage I retreated into a bathroom and cried harder than I think I ever have. It should have been a reality, that his friends didn't care. He didn't care, he was still with me, still loved me. But I cared. To be honest, I've never once told anyone that story. He and I never spoke of it ever. I always talk about feeling naked from the vulnerability of writing this, but that is the most personal of scary, embarrassing stories I've ever shared.
*Our annual cottage Wakeboard competitions, Waketivis: My first year and my second year there*

Another time, after my second transplant (third bout), a bunch of us were out boating again in the water. One of our mutual friends who we hadn't seen in a few months jumped in the boat. He took one look at me and said "Oh Court, you chopped off all your hair!" He didn't realize that no, I hadn't, but this was it just growing back. I was once again mortified, and he later apologized and I felt just as bad for him. Thats the other thing about losing your hair, its a constant reminder that Yes. You didn't do this by choice. You have no control over your body and life when disease takes over because your disease dictates everything from what you're capable of, to what you look like. The only thing you can control, is how you handle it.

This is a superficial topic, so its hard to talk about. I don't want people to think that the right things are not important to me. However, this is important to me. My hair gives me confidence. When I'm sick I lose my hair, when I lose my hair I lose my confidence and when I lose my confidence I lose myself. Its a domino effect. When I went to Costa Rica, no one knew who I was, so I didn't care if I was the weird girl with short hair and a different bikini for every single day. It was liberating, but a huge part of me knew deep down inside, that this wasn't what the real world was like. It reminded me that in the real world, Kate Spade or Kmart, doesn't change who you are, it just changes the way people around you treat you. Hair is the same way, its the kmart in this metaphor. Sidenote: I think that's why its the BEST feeling ever when someone says "OMG where did you get that?" and I can confidently say "Target!"
*In the airport on my way to Costa Rica and nail painting sesh in Costa Rica*

I learned how to transform myself with my extensions. You would never know that in these pics, my hair is actually above my shoulders.
*First pic- actual hair length and then some transformations* -Sorry Dad for the Duck face pic... I know how you feel about that ;)

I rocked wigs when I had too, I made due. But I hated it. My 19th, I was bald.

Come to think of it, I was for my 21st too. I spent my 21st birthday in a wig.

BUT, I've been dealing with this since I was 15. I went to prom with no hair, twice. This is one of the proms I rocked a wig, some of the others I didnt... Those pics are hidden, I can't even show you if I wanted too. They're hidden deep.
I graduated High School in a wig.

I never was promiscuous with guys because I was afraid if they kissed me, and put their hands on my head, they may realize I'm wearing a wig, and then wonder whats ACTUALLY wrong with me. Those were some big milestones that I had to adjust for. I couldn't just be me comfortably. I had to be the best version I could be of me given what I had to work with. 15, 18 and 20. All three times I lost my hair, all of it. I'm sick of waiting for it to grow back. Someone special to me recently told me "the difference between a bad hair cut and a good hair cut is two weeks". For me its not a hair cut thats the issue and the two weeks is actually years.

When I first heard I was sick again, my first thought was OMG my confidence, my hair. So as I was sitting in the waiting room last Wednesday, brushing through my hair with my hands, watching it fall out, my heart sank. My hair was at a length I loved. Mermaid hair as one of my best friends back home and I strive for. I could rock BIG country curls. I could straighten it. I could do my Victoria's Secret hair. Three weeks prior, I had spent $200 at ULTA on hair products because they were having a huge sale and I thought I should stock up. Now I have all the hairspray in the world, and may not have hair to use it on.

Now granted, I may NOT lose my hair, but after one week of treatment and its already starting to shed, I panicked. I convinced myself that if I cut it, the weight of it wont drag it down. If I cut it, it will be super healthy. This is coming from the girl who takes prenatal vitamins just for her hair. SO I did the most UNCourtney thing ever and went and chopped it off. If Chemo is going to take my hair, I'm going to do this my way. Its my choice this time!
Pre/ During cut

My adorable hair stylist J, was so nervous apparently to cut my hair.
"What if I'm cutting it and it all falls out."
Luckily that didn't happen. She was so sweet and understanding with me. She even emailed me after and apologized for taking it too short because she felt so guilty. I told her she had nothing to worry about because it was exactly what I wanted. It's a fresh start. A way for me to be proactive in controlling the way the chemo affects my confidence. Its my way of keeping control and not letting the disease control me. This is my "Britney" moment. (Except slightly more sane, ok a lot more sane)

It's short, but I'm excited to try out my hot rollers with my short hair. I may actually be able to pull off a sock bun now. J said that my hair was extremely thick and didn't fall out more than the average persons. This really reassured me, but its still in my head. Everyone just wants to feel beautiful. I am covered in scars and cursed with a body that doesn't seem to cooperate with me. The one thing I could rely on to feel good about my self was my hair. Now I have what I'm calling my mom cut, but I'm planning on rocking it. I look innocent as hell (which can be devilishly fun), and that can only be used to my advantage. Its so much lighter and less hot which helps when I'm fevering. I'm learning to love my new do. I'm also learning, that it really shouldn't be my source of confidence. It's a lot easier said than done, but everything is a learning process.
The final product: (sorry for the delay, I know a ton of people have been DYING to see!)

I had one of my good guy friends F, tell me
"That's hot, I've gotta say, I'm diggin the new look."
Even when I insecurely said "Really?" He replied with "Uh YEA" along with some other R rated comments. Thats what friends are for :)

So we'll see what happens but my hair is just another metaphor for my womanhood being taken away from me. Long hair typically symbolizes feminism, and mine is potentially being taken away, just like my lady bits. It never ends, but really this is the least of my worries. Its just room for another social experiment ;)