Sisters who have had or are facing cancer, I know just a tiny bit what you felt today, minus the fear that I might die. I have an immune condition called alopecia areata. My body is attacking my hair follicles. I have random bald patches that are becoming numerous and growing together into large patches of missing hair. My hair volume is down about 75% in two and a half years. And today I shopped for a wig.
Let me tell you what that entailed:
Me: I don’t belong here (as I pull up to the wig studio.) I can’t believe I am going in here. What the f $#! is wrong with me? (Denying reality for certain.)
And a lovely younger woman helped me as I came in. I can’t tell you what that meant. No offense to my senior ladies, but I don’t need a grandma fitting me for a wig when I already feel pretty devastated. I think if I had cancer I would just be pissed off and the wig would be worn out of defiance. But this? I just feel less of me. And though I have been trying hard, no amount of shopping or shoes or vacations is going to make me feel better about this.
I don’t know if or when my hair will grow back. And otherwise, I’m healthy – I eat a 100% whole-foods diet, I don’t eat anything that comes in a package or a box (or any container, as they all seem to contain soy and I can’t have soy, or dairy or a bunch of other things like peaches and cherries.) I run, I bike, I swim, I sail, I do yoga. I’m seeing a registered dietician and specialist for an immunocalming diet, too.
But today, I shopped for that wig. And the sad part is, when I had it on, it looked awesome! And when I took it off, it was so depressing to see what my hair looks like now. It’s happened fast – in the last 4 weeks it’s accelerated dramatically.
Things you think you’d never have to consider: synthetic or real hair. First off, I like the idea of a synthetic wig. No bad hair days ever. Put it on and go. It stays styled. But synthetic wigs, I’m told, can melt or singe if you open a 350 degree oven or your steaming dishwasher or, as the gal at the wig store helpfully suggested “might as well give up laundry too, a hot dryer will do it”. I could take it off at home, I suppose. I might forget. And they are very expensive. $275 typically. I didn’t look at the human hair ones (all of you Locks of Love ladies, thanks!) but those, as the gal at the store pointed out, will require styling and will respond to humidity the same way your real hair does. I got to sit in a nice chair at a counter not unlike a salon, and try on wigs. As she brushed one particular style out, I loved the copper and blonde streaks in the dark chocolate base – like what I’ve been doing for the past few years with my own real hair. She smiled, it did look great on me. So we wrote down styles on card and I’ll go back this week and try on some more. I will invite my husband for the last showing before I plunk down several hundred for hair. Beautiful hair.
I know I will get used to this. And maybe have fun with it. I decided that since they’re having a BOGO sale, I might get a long one and a short one. Drive my clients nuts: wait, didn’t you have short hair last week? Ha! I will be honest about this. I’m not sick. And when I see a problem I solve it from all angles. Immune system testing, check. Immunocalming diet, check, yoga, check, stress reduction (giving up all but the essentials) check.
One funny thought did cross my mind. When I was pregnant my hair grew in long, lustrous and gorgeous. And my immune system was kept in check by visits to my reproductive immunologist in Chicago and the miracle of intravenous immunoglobulin infusions. Why not do that one again?
But quickly I realize that’s a bad idea. Besides, I like where my life is right now except for this immune system wonkiness. And the risks I carry are too great for both of us (all of us) to take that chance. But oooh, it’s tempting. I mean my hair was gorgeous, flat out gorgeous. Even in my 20s, with waist-length blonde hair, I never had hair as when I was pregnant.
I think what you leave behind when something like this happens is any false sense of security you might have had over long hair or that your hair was one of your most beautiful assets. YOU are your most beautiful asset. Your mind, your zest for life, your will to conquer whatever is in your path. You.