Hair Talk: Why I Shaved My Head Before Starting Chemo and Why I Nixed the Wig

When I was diagnosed with recurrent ovarian cancer in 2019 and was subsequently prescribed chemo after my second surgery, I had many, many thoughts ricochetting around the expanse of my mind; however, losing my hair was not one of them. My appearance did not matter much to me in that moment, just that I was receiving the right care and treatment. When I finally understood the gravity of the symptoms of chemo that show outwardly and label me as a cancer patient– losing my hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc. — I immediately thought “What the fuck, let’s just get it over with and shave it.” A few days later, Malcolm got the clippers to buzz my hair in a middle-fingers-to-my tumor move.

Before we started, I was an absolute wreck. Not because I was going to not have hair anymore but because taking that step cemented the grave reality that I had cancer. I hadn’t really cried since my diagnosis, and once I started crying, I couldn’t stop. All of the helplessness, sadness, frustration, confusion, and primal fear came surging out of me. To combat this, I put on one of my favorite songs this year, WALKTHEMOON’s “Timebomb” and we did the damn thing. Afterwards, I felt refreshed and cleansed. I could feel hope fluttering back into my chest. That plus Malcolm shaving his head in solidarity rejuvenated my innate optimism. And it turns out the shape of my head isn’t half bad.

Several people have asked me throughout the course of my treatment if I will wear wigs or just “go natural”. As stated in my previous posts, I was known for my sweatpants chic in college, so my organic inclination is more casual. I already lean towards celebrating our natural selves just as we are in different seasons of life.

Being unabashedly bald, people invariably ask about my “bold hair choice” in public spaces. When I explain that I’m going through chemo, their faces inevitably fall and they sometimes even cry. I automatically feel the need to comfort them about ME having cancer which vexes me to no end. People are in charge of their own emotions and actions, and I do not owe anyone (outside of my family and friends) comfort for MY prognosis. However, guilt inevitably follows. The other common reaction I get in public is none at all. People try very hard to ignore me. I often catch someone’s eye and then they immediately look away. That my friends, feels very alienating. Avoiding this would be the only reason I would feel the need to wear a wig in public.

On a larger scale, because I advocate for people celebrating themselves for exactly who they are and what their body looks/feels like, how could I not go wigless? As my Poppie often said, “Always put your money where your mouth is, kid”. So bald and natural I shall be. And I am still retaining my value as a human being. I’m still going to take up space. I still matter. And I do not owe perfectly coiffed hair, or any hair for that matter, to anyone. People should not have to be afraid to go in public because of how they feel about how their bodies look. Women and other marginalized groups should not have to be afraid to take up space in certain venues because they will be targeted for what they look like or how they dress. I guess I consider my unabashed baldness to be a small, small drop in the bucket of societal change towards welcoming and acceptance.

Here’s to us accepting that we have value just as we are and taking up so much damn space. Thanks for reading!

Maegan

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