My hair was a gorgeous, rich, dark brown color because I’d been coloring it to cover the gray since I was in high school, first experimenting with at-home options, and then regularly getting it professionally dyed my “natural color” since my early 20s.
I called my hair salon, Sam Brocato Salon, and spoke to my stylist, Penelope Love, whom I’d just started going to for haircuts a few months earlier.
I just kept on watching it, amazed at my own strength and so inspired by myself. “breathin” became my theme song as I was going through treatment, and over the next six months, I heard it at many significant moments — I woke up to it when my alarm went off the day I started my second round of chemo post-surgery, and again on my last day of chemo a few months later, to name just a few. So then I was bald.
It felt sickening to keep losing chunks of hair as I had been, to know that bald spots were sprouting up in places I couldn’t see them, to have to spend so much time mopping up piles of hair everywhere I went.
I’d always been so insecure about the gray roots as they grew in, constantly aware of them and what angle people were at in relation to me and if they could see them, so I knew that if I started, I probably would have been going every three to four weeks to keep the gray totally covered.
One dreary Saturday morning, a month after I’d started chemo, I went to the salon in SoHo and got my first of two chemo haircuts, a pixie cut.
While I’d fantasized about the freedom that would come with letting my hair be its natural gray, I only made it three months.
Maybe I’ll be the one person who doesn’t lose their hair from this type of chemo, I thought, a couple of weeks into treatment.
I hadn’t showered during that week in the hospital and my hair had tangled into monstrous knots that I didn’t even attempt to get out because I was sure I was going to lose my hair soon anyway, so it wasn’t worth the effort.
When my hair first started growing in again after my chemo it was fine, wispy, and white — and stuck straight up.
For the first few weeks of chemo, I didn’t lose any hair.
Released from the hospital and back at home in my new life as a cancer patient, I still had my long, dark, curly hair at first.
My treatment plan consisted of nine consecutive weeks of weekly chemo, followed by major debulking surgery, which involved a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (both ovaries and fallopian tubes removed) as well as my appendix being removed due to metastases there, and then nine more weeks of chemo.
But I wasn't worrying about my hair, which had been, for all of my adult life, long, dark, curly, and a major part of my identity.
But now, there are Instagram accounts like @grombre celebrating women with naturally gray hair, it’s become much more acceptable and mainstream, and there’s so much gray-hair inspiration should you need it. (I was thrilled to be featured on their timeline this summer.
Turns out having grays and a shaved head is surprisingly empowering. https://t.co/sNlI8pvtRt— Allure (@Allure_magazine) January 3, 2020
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