Tuesday, November 14, 2006
What's the Big Hairy Deal?
A quick trip through the history books and we know as much about a woman’s hairstyle as her historical contributions. Whether it is Cleopatra’s seductive bob, Marie Antoinette’s up do, or the flowing locks of Botticelli’s Venus, a woman’s hairstyle is synonymous with her personal style and identity. What’s the big deal? It is only hair. Well at least that is what I have been telling myself for the past two years.

But can’t we tell a lot about a woman by her hairstyle? Hmmmm . . . how many Playboy Playmates have short hair (or not blonde hair for that matter)? Flash back to Three’s Company and you will know which one was the sensible one and which one was the playful one by the hairstyle. Let’s flash back even further to Gunsmoke’s Miss Kitty with her upswept saloon girl do versus the conservative hardworking Ma Ingals of Little House on the Prairie. Hairstyles reveal things quicker than Lady Godiva can cover them up.

There was only one thing on my Christmas wish list in 2004. I had finished chemo in November and was recovering from surgery in December. I was joyous from a clean pathology report, but there was still something missing. On Christmas Eve I awoke to a crown of soft, tiny grey-brown hair. An arched shadow above my eyes would give way to brand new eyebrows. Tiny little points of eyelashes were just beginning to emerge. It was indeed a Christmas miracle for Santa brought me the gift of hair growth (cue the angel trumpet blasts and the rays of light from the top of my head).

Not that I am trying to perpetuate the importance of hair, but I couldn’t help reminiscing about the hair journey. In these last two weeks I have finally felt like my hair was getting to an acceptable length and style. Not since birth have I had short hair and these past two years of awkward hair lengths and “growing out” styles have been a challenge, not to mention the changes in texture and body that have taken place. It has been yet one more thing that made me feel less like me during this cancer chronicle.

But what is it about feeling my hair brush against my neck or being able to put it up in a clip that makes me feel more me? Or is it simply being able to once again have control over how I look? I’m not sure of the answer, but I do know that losing one’s hair is a significant step in the cancer battle.

As I wrote in August 2004,
“This has been quite a week. I think I have experienced more emotions and feelings this week than in any week since beginning this journey. And oddly enough, the one thing I thought I was most prepared for was the one thing that brought me to my knees. . . Breast cancer and its treatment have an impact on the feminine aspects of a woman, though it doesn’t attack her womanhood. What is an outwardly physical sign that I am a woman? Is it my breasts? My softly curled flowing locks of hair? Is it my soft skin and nicely shaped fingernails? If my breasts are damaged, my hair erased, my nails and skin dry and flaking, am I still a woman?”
Losing my hair was a turning point. I was beginning to outwardly wear the badge of cancer. As good as wigs are nowadays, look closely enough and you can tell (yes, even on today’s pop princesses). With the exception of a daft colleague at the university who thought my new hat fetish was cute (not real perceptive, that one), my baldness was easily identifiable. What’s worse, I felt bald . . .bare . . . exposed, even when covered.

In much the same way, feeling like my hair is finally at a length I can appreciate is also a turning point of sorts. I feel like I am back. Life is becoming more comfortable to me again and I am feeling more at ease with things. Perhaps the team of specialists exploring various body parts (and not finding cancer) has given me reassurance. Perhaps its simply the passage of time dulling the cancer pangs. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the sweep of my bangs, the wispy tickling of hair against my shoulders, and the way it frames my face that lets me know that the cycle of life is still moving forward. As am I.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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