by Melanie Rollins
After chemo, when my hair finally started growing back, it was like peach fuzz at first. There was great excitement, until I stepped back from the mirror and realized that the first hair was transparent, and there was not enough of it to make the slightest difference. I still looked completely bald. After a while, more stubble came until I eventually had a respectable crew cut.
Still not the look I was going for. But something remarkable did come in with that first hair. A renewed sense of awe in respect to what my body could do. All those damaged hair follicles had picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started pushing up baby hairs. I think babies have such wonderful hair because their hair follicles are still learning how to make hair. That is what mine did after chemo. First, peach fuzz. Then stubble. Then actual hair … without color. And finally, one day the hair started to look normal again.
They say it takes about two years to get back to real pre-chemo hair. Until then, almost everyone I have met has grown a crop of baby curls. Gray, of course, since a lot of us are over 50. But a few lucky ones have had their hair come back in its original, natural color. Something some of us have not seen for a very long time.
All those damaged hair follicles had picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started pushing up baby hairs.
The best thing about post-chemo hair is the way it feels. It is soft like the down on a newborn chick. Then as it gets past the one-inch phase, something marvelous happens. It starts to curl.
And before you know it, spring comes – on your head at least – and things start to grow again.
It might sound strange, but the thing I most feared about cancer treatment was the hair loss. However, it turned out to be a fascinating part of the journey. Cancer changes you, and the change is for the good in my opinion. I am glad I got the chance to face my fear of baldness and come out on the other side with baby curls.
Who could be unhappy with baby curls?
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Melanie Rollins is a breast cancer survivor living on San Juan Island, WA, and pursuing her long-time dream of being a published author.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2011.