Cancer is (but really isn’t) so much about the hair.  For everything else that’s going on, it’s, like, a lot of hair talk, you know?  But seriously, I just have to tell you that having this “haircut” feels a little like wearing a vest that your grandma knitted with her knitting circle buddies.  Just no.  And I need to talk about it.  (You guys are pretty much free therapy, right?  And you’re awesome at keeping my secrets, yes?)

I’m having troubles figuring out how to field niceties re: my hair situation.  When someone compliments my buzz cut, I don’t know how to respond.  Like, truly, I haven’t figured out how to react, and I should probably work on it because this is how my life is going right now:

Random person that I work with/run into at the grocery store/live with:  “Heather, your hair is so cute like that!  Not just anyone can pull off a haircut like that, but you are!”



It feels like people are complimenting my coffee-stained teeth or how great my last fart smelled or something.

Is this a joke?  I don’t understand.

How do you take a compliment for something that you absolutely hate?  Or wasn’t even your idea?  Or was a result of the worst experience of your life?  Gah.

And the other night, at work, it got worse, or possibly better.  I’m not sure.  A patient HIT ON ME.

As I’m flushing his IV, “You’re beautiful, you know that?”

“Pfffffffffft.  **fart noise**”

I awkwardly finish up and start for the door.

“You are.  And if you ever want to talk, we can talk.”

“Umm…if you need anything else or if your chest pain comes back, let me know.  I’ll be back to check on you in a little bit.”

“And if you need anything, let me know.”

Before I make my quick retreat, my mind takes him in and screams, “Oh, COME ON!  Are you seriously hitting on me right now?  I’M BALD!  I know you have a past history of drug abuse, but are you high right now?  If you’re seriously hitting on me, I suggest that you get your shit together and raise your standards.  This is an embarrassment for both of us!”

But then, you know, I walked down the hall back to the nurse’s station with a pep in my step.  Drug abuser or not, this is the first time I’ve been hit on since the big C took away any chance I had at working the pole for a living.  (I mean…you never know.  Maybe it’s how I would have sent Penny to medical school or gotten Alice those braces.)  When I wasn’t looking it in the face, it felt pretty good.

Josh tells me I’m pretty all the time, but that doesn’t really mean anything.  He’s my husband; he’s just trying to get what is his.  When this thirty-something, drug abusing, unemployed cardiac patient told me that I was beautiful, well… baby, I’m back!

Buuuuut then, I found out that he hit on my nurse’s assistant.  And pretty much every other female that entered the room.  It was really fun while it lasted though.

I knew this hair made me look like a lesbian (Legit — I’ve been mistaken for a lesbian twice now.) or a dude.

Because last night it got even worse.  Last night, I answered the door to a Charter saleslady, and she didn’t know how to address me.  In all fairness, I was wearing my husband’s t-shirt, and I wasn’t wearing my boobs.  I saw the confusion in her eyes, and I heard the struggle in her voice as she asked me if I was “the…the…llllll….lady?…of the house.”

Damn this buzz cut!

In truth, I just don’t feel like myself.  I feel naked without my hair.  I feel like someone else.  I feel misrepresented.  When I’m around new people, these feelings are multiplied by a hundred because they don’t know that I didn’t choose this.  They have no other picture of me in their heads besides the one I’m showing them right now.  They can’t reference my long hair and know who I really am (physically).  When they say, “I like your hair,” I’m faced with the dilemma of either having to tell them that I didn’t do this on purpose (and, subsequently, the whole story, which just leads to me awkwardly comforting them) or just smiling and thanking them, which kills me.

Actually, now that I’ve written it out, it seems so easy.  Just smile and say thanks.  Geez, Heather…get over yourself!  The lesbians would be lucky to have me!  And I them.  (I’ve always wanted wife.)

And come to think of it, I ran into an acquaintance at Siteman who is fighting stage 4 colon cancer, and her chemo doesn’t make her lose her hair.  My first thought was one of sorrow for her because by not losing her hair, people won’t know how sick she is or how rotten she feels.  In a way, I’m glad that I lost my hair.  It’s the physical sign that one has been touched by cancer, and the world reacts accordingly.

I just can’t wait until people know, for sure, that I’m a lady again.  That’ll be nice too.


P.S.  You guys have really brought the voting up a notch in the last week, and I really appreciate it.  You are pretty much the bee’s knees.  There are only five days left, and I’m about 1000 votes behind so what do you say we take that other blog down (just to second place — I’m not a complete jerk.)?  Click here to vote daily!

23 comments on “I never planned on having a buzz cut.”

  1. So. .. when I complimented your hair, I meant it. Maybe it’s the lesbian in me. But in all seriousness. . You couldn’t look bad if you tried – hair or no hair. And I’ve seen you at your worst and best… still beautiful!

  2. Even though some people think it is shallow or vain to worry about hair when you are fighting cancer, for the patient Hair Matters! When I had chemo, my 11 year old son fixated on my lack of hair. He hated the caps, hats, and scarves as they made me look Iike a cancer patient! He would have been happiest if I wore my wig 24/7, even to bed. 3 years after the fact, he doesn’t want me to cut my hair again. Ever. I’m sure you look better than you think you do. Not every cancer patient gets hit on by 30 something drug addicts!

    • True. I still count that come-on!

      I could see that with an older child. Since my girls are so young, they kind of rolled with it, but in a few years, I think it would freak them out as well.

      And yes, it seems shallow–and there are bigger/better worries–but hair matters! Thanks!

  3. You’re seriously like half a second away from rocking a pixie cut, my darling. Chopping my hair off hard core 10 years ago, I felt like I’d somehow lost the thing that made me feminine. I’ve cut my hair that short twice in my life and both times it made me feel like I was somehow less feminine. But then I look at you (and many other women with really short hair…there are women who buzz their hair ON PURPOSE) and I think of how beautiful you all look with short hair. Why do we girls have so much tied up in our hair? I am going to lay this at the feet of marketing and media. 😉

    • It does make me feel way less feminine! And you’re right…media.

      But, I felt pretty feminine after spending the morning with you and Kate. So thank you!

  4. Hello Heather! I saw the article about you in The Telegraph this morning. Have you ever heard of the Caring Circle cancer support group run through St Anthony’s Hospital in Alton? We meet every third Saturday of the month. Attendees come and go, but my daughter in law and I have been pretty faithful since its inception. She is like you…. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32. She did not have the ductal type, however. She had a reoccurrence at age 37. She is in remission now. She is quite a warrior and inspiration. We would love for you to join the support group if you were looking for that type of thing! Feel free to email me for any details!! Btw, the group started out as just breast cancer, but it has been opened up to all cancers now. I am not a cancer survivor but I have been my daughter in law’s “support” person. We always go to the meetings together. 🙂

    • You know, someone else mentioned this group to me in October, but I never followed through. What time and where do you guys meet?

      And thanks for stopping by!

      • Hello Heather! The meetings are every 3rd Saturday of the month at 10am. We’re usually done around noon. We do have a meeting this Saturday the 17th. I can’t remember the speaker, or even the topic exactly, but it was something about spiritualtiy and stress. Possibly? Don’t quote me!! 🙂 I know I was excited about it. I am waiting to get contact information for you for the facilitator of the group. Her name is Tracy. Oh – and it is at St Anthony’s Hospital where they have their cancer infusion area. Hope to see you there! I will send the contact info when I get it, in case you wanted to call Tracy. I just wanted to let you know so you could make plans, if need be.


  5. I love this! I’m 5 months out from chemo and I’m dealing with short hair. I have so many of the same thoughts. I told a woman who complemented my hair that “my barber is a real bitch. Her name is chemo.” You have to entertain yourself some how. I’ve started wearing long earrings so hopefully I look less like a lesbian. I don’t know if that is rational, but it makes sense to me! Hang in there!

    • Hilarious. I’m also stealing that line for future use!

      I have a 17 month old so dangling earrings would = bleeding ears. Otherwise, yes, I agree with your use of long earrings.

  6. This. Exactly! I had triple positive BC on both sides, two lumpectomies and went thru TCH with 3 more Herceptins to go. I finished chemo in June and my hair is now about an inch and a half long. People are always telling me how cute it is. I feel like if I say “Thank you” I’m agreeing with them or that I like it. I’ve gotten to the point where I do just say thank you because I know they mean well, but I hate it. Seriously. I had long blonde hair halfway down my back and it was my pride and joy, a huge part of my identity. It just looks weird now. It’s at that stage where people look at me like “did she do that on purpose?” Thank you for expressing how I feel so well! I’m a new fan of your blog but I’ll definitely go back and read the whole thing (and of course I voted for you!” Take care!

    • Yes, “thank you” definitely feels like agreement, and it just couldn’t be further from the truth. But “thank you” is also the path of least resistance. Humph.

      I hope you do come back! Thanks for the vote!

  7. I had many people compliment my hair “cut”…I always said, well it’s more of a hair “grow”, but thanks. I thought losing my hair was the least of my worries…but I guess it bothered me more than I realized, because now I can’t seem bring myself to have it cut, not even trimmed…it’s been 3 years since my last chemo, and not one haircut.

    • I was thinking the same thing, that I’m never cutting it again! How long is your hair now? How did you get past that “awkward” stage of just a few inches?

      • Well, I haven’t hit that stage yet. It’s only maybe a half inch so I’m headed there, and I have no idea what’s going to happen on this head of mine. How long is yours?

  8. i woke up still smiling about your comments. The 3rd person I saw this morning said that she really liked my hair and wanted to know if I had colored it because it looked so different when she last saw me. That was in September and I was bald! Some days you just have to laugh!

  9. I have my crew voting for you in the Healthline contest. Looks like you’ve jumped up, so good luck! I won twice in a row and it is nice to get that check, I must say. I really hope you get it – you are a talented writer.

    As for the hair, I’ve lost mine twice. It’s now long but grey. I decided not to go back to dying it, since as a metster I’m always in treatment and the process of dying hair is not a cycle I can get back into. And, dammit, I am not dying with roots! So even these last few years with grey hair I feel like an imposter. The before and after of me are of a young(ish) woman that somebody might hit on to a old grey-haired lady that is invisible in society. You’ll feel less like an imposter as time goes by, trust me. *hugs* ~ann

  10. I’ve been told I look better than I have in years, amazing, stand out more than ever, sexy, hot, sexy (all, not by my husband). I can’t figure it out. Did I look like shit before? Someone said it must be because I have a better attitude about life now… Really?? My attitude about life was fine before cancer. I had already had my “spiritual epiphany” and was seeing life from a super great place. But, ya, it took silvery streak in now black hair (replacing my ho hum brown) to turn heads. Weird. Maybe it’s that they think I should look like crap now after the year of surgery, lotsa chemo, shingles (for good measure) and LOTSA radiation. Truth is I’d take my brown hair (and breasts before cancer took one over completely) and plain old self any day. But, for now, I’m just trying to go along with it and not cringe too much at the left-handed (“you look so good NOW”) compliments.

    YOUR BLOG ROCKS! Or, more accurately, you do. Wonderful to meet you! XOXO

  11. Reading this made me laugh and cry at the same time. I just shaved my hair off on Valentine’s Day…not the sexy way to end the day with my man. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your blogs. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.