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Carpe Diem

Today is the day. That ‘day’ that has been lurking in the back of my mind for weeks, causing knots in my stomach from apprehension. I steel my mind and prepare for the inevitable, catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror. The small patches of hair continuing to fall out daily have now turned into clumps, decidedly separating themselves from my person without my consent. I lean over the railing on my deck and comb through what remains. I collect the hair and discard the remnants in the trash. Choice or not, it’s time. My scalp hurts, my hair feels rough and brittle. It doesn’t even seem like real hair anymore, but rather that of a doll gone through one too many ‘salon’ days with a preschooler. Gillian, Michele, and Barbara will be coming tonight for another get together to celebrate my next step. We have an elaborate meal planned and my shave day will be commemorated with a photo shoot. I mean why not? Gillian’s son, Liam, will be providing his expertise. Sam made the trip and my boys will be here as well. I’m still feeling the ill-effects of chemo ten days later, but I march on despite my limited capacity for activities. The majority of preparations are done without me, my friends having realized my limitations. They oblige me to stay seated and to rest and redirect me back to my chair when I attempt to assert my support. I grapple with the loss of some independence, but it’s three against one, these women every bit as stubborn as myself, and resign myself to the pampering.

Mixed feelings about the event linger, swinging like a pendulum. I’m ready, but I’m not ready. I inwardly talk myself up, imagining myself striking a Super(wo)man stance, music and all, and then waffle and crumble, feeling as if the last of my identity will be gone; the last of the old me. As I stare at a photo from last summer, sadness and fear creep in. I fear ‘letting her go’ because so much of who I am is tied up in my appearance. I feel incapable of separating the parts of what makes me, me. Shame overcomes me. I’m more than a pretty face with long curly hair! I can do this.

Dinner, wine (for the guests), conversation, and laughter flows freely, and we move the party to the deck and prep for the event. Liam sets up his camera gear, complete with lighting and umbrellas for the flash photography. He did not disappoint!

Each of them, Sam, Gillian, Michele, and Barbara, participate in the ceremonial shave. As I see my hair collecting on the deck floor I am overcome with a sense of relief, of freedom. My scalp feels much better, free from the confines of its remainders. My point of view clicks like a switch and I realize I am ready to embrace this new look, to wear it like a badge of honor. Going through this experience has been no small feat. My new look is a reminder of this journey. It’s temporary, just like the side effects. I also have plenty of head coverings to try out and let’s not forget my wig, a straight bobbed hairstyle I used to wear years ago. I kind of miss that look. So I pose for a few pictures, even taking some with the wig. I did say I was going to embrace every part of this journey. I resolve that this has been kind of fun, finding relief in its completion. I’m not used to being in the center of attention, but relax into it, fully exercising my newly adopted princess status.

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