Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Time to Shave...Time To Shine!

Alright. I'm ready to write about this now. It's been quite an adjustment, as you can probably imagine. Your hair is important to you whether you realize it or not. Whether you complain about it everyday or just throw it in a pony tail or under a hat. And it's not just important to women. Men also cherish their hair (hair club for men anyone?)...hehehe. So my hair started falling out. Slowly at first, but it only took a few days. for it to get really bad. Literally raining down on my shoulders and having to carry a lint roller with me so I can clean up chairs and places that I sit. This first picture is of one of the smaller clumps of hair that would fall out every time I brushed my hair or ran my fingers through it.

"Of course your hair is falling out Valerie...your going through CHEMO!" May be what some might think. Well, with the type and doses of chemo I'm doing it is VERY RARE to lose your hair. I talked to my Dr and nurse about it and they told me that when/if people lose hair, it isn't ever enough hair that others will notice. I took some reassurance in this, but felt uneasy about how much I was loosing all day, everyday. Sure enough in about 4 days since it started falling out, the hair ball grew. Leave it to me to be an over achiever and prove them wrong. This is a pic of my hair loss after taking a shower.

That was a hard shower to take. I knew in my heart that my hair was done. I couldn't live with all the hair mess anymore. Feeling like a shedding dog, leaving a trail of hair everywhere I went. I even had to sweep the floor after teaching Zumba one night because of all the hair on the ground. I felt so gross. I made the call to Brandi, my great hair girl, and scheduled a time for it all to go. Here is a picture of one of my awkward bald spots. I felt like having a head splattered with ultra thin hair spots made me look sicker. Made me feel worse even. It had to go. I had it cut off October 7th, at about 4pm.

She had to do some preliminary trimming. I was holding myself together pretty well until she pulled out the clippers...

A few videos can tell the story better than my words...

Feeling the clippers on my head was so strange. I didn't like it at all. The noise, the vibration, the hair falling all around me. I'll never forget it. Doubting myself the whole time. "Is this the right thing to do?" "Am I giving in to the hair loss, letting the cancer win?" Should I hold on to what I have for as long as I can?"

After the hair was gone I had a hard time. I wouldn't look in the mirror or let any one touch it. Which was quite a challenge getting ready to teach my Zumba class that night...but I successfully avoided all mirrors until I got my dome covered up. I did reveal my head to my class that night. They were amazingly supportive, of course, and I tried to look at myself again. That attempt ended in tears. I'm so stubborn sometimes. I didn't really look at myself for almost 2 days. Starting with just touching it at first, and looking at my shadow. Then seeing my reflection in my peripheral vision. It is a hard thing to get used to! Once I did accept the reflection looking back at me I was better, and the more time has passed the more comfortable I am with it.

Having no hair has changed me in so many ways. I never really appreciated myself before. Like many other women, I was super hard on myself. Pointing out and noticing my every flaw. My every imperfection. It is good to want to improve yourself, but I never appreciated myself PHYSICALLY. Always nitpicking. Now that I have lost that long brown hair that I used to hide behind there is nothing left to look at but ME! Pure 100% me. And how I was surprised by how much I liked myself. By how many pictures of myself I saw without hair and actually thought. "I look pretty!" (I used to try and avoid being in pictures. I hated 8 out of 10 pictures of myself.) So that is a HUGE step forward for me! And that's why I say I never appreciated myself. I had so much, and it took it all being threatened (and some of it taken away) for me to have this great growth in myself. Although I cannot pin point when I changed, when I saw things differently, I know that I see things as they really are now. I see what is important in life and I know that being unhappy about the shape of your face or about the size of your nose or thighs is POINTLESS! Don't do it! I see my beauty now. And it's not just in a physical way. It's like I can see my spirit too. I feel like I just want to SHINE!


  1. What a hard, but beautiful post to write. Thank you for your courage. I lost my bestie to breast cancer a year almost 2 years ago. I remember when she started chemo and the hair started falling out in clumps like yours. She decided that SHE would be in control and that cancer wouldn't take her hair, SHE would. One night, she got some liquid courage in her, and out came the clippers. We even dyed it blue for a little fun. I never thought she was more beautiful. As as are you!

  2. Oh Val! I love you! Thank you for sharing this part of your story. You are creating a great legacy for both your children and others to learn from. I am again reminded of how much we can learn through adversity. Thank you for teaching me today.

  3. Valerie, that was so inspiring. I'm the same way - so critical of myself. I hate almost every picture and I banned pictures being taken of myself for years. I still kind of do. I have to "approve" pictures. And my hair is everything to me. I watched the videos of you getting your hair cut and getting it shaved and I cried harder than you did in the videos. You never cease to amaze me. You have shared so much amazing insight through this experience and I can't help but think that God chose you to go through this to teach the rest of us some important lessons.

  4. You blog is heartfelt and very inspiring. Hang in there, and keep up the good work!

    My mother, Renee' is battling breast cancer for the second time in 10 years. She's doing great, and is expected to make a full recovery after chemotherapy.

    A few weeks ago, my mother decided to shaver her head due to the chemo-induced hair loss. I'm a filmmaker, so I decided to document the process. My mother and I both believe there is a great sense of empowerment in shaving ones head due to chemo, and I wanted to capture that emotion. The resulting film is about 4 minutes long.

    Here is a link to the film:

  5. Valerie you are Truly Beautiful, always have been, always will <3 I Love and Admire you. I have always looked to you. You are truly an inspiration.

  6. Beautiful and inspiring. I think your bald head makes your beautiful face and smile more breathtaking. Prayers for you always.

  7. I have always thought you to be one of the most beautiful people I know. And, as I've gotten to know you better over the last year, I now know that you are one of the most beautiful people I know on the inside and outside, with and without hair!

  8. I was crying right along with you as I watched these videos. I can only imagine the thoughts and emotions that were running through you during this. I only knew you for a short time as my Zumba instructor for a summer, pilates instructor for a few classes (probably the best classes I've ever taken to improve my posture) and as my neighbor for a short time, but I always thought you were a gorgeous woman both inside and out. Even without your hair, you are gorgeous! And in reading through your blog you are gorgeous on the inside still as well even through these extreme circumstances. Thank you for sharing your experience and your heart with us. You and your family will continue to be in my prayers.