I woke up on Monday and decided to shave my head. So I took myself to Andy and Marvin’s barber shop on Fisher Street and asked for a Kojak. Andy explained that they only cut very close to the head and after asking me three times if I really wanted a Number One, he took out his electric cutter and started. You might want to close your eyes, he warned me; this might not be easy for you.
I’d started to think about this decision the night before, when, as I was combing my hair using my fingers, it was coming out in whole handfuls. The chemotherapy was finally taking its toll and though the sight was rather entertaining to my son, it was starting to creep me out. In fact, the whole hair loss thing had been far harder than I’d expected. The lion in me was starting to feel rather mangy.
Andy meanwhile was being very funny, and kindly keeping my mind busy as he shaved: ‘So, how’s the chemotherapy going? Are you seeing the light at the end of the tunnel yet? And I don’t mean the kind of near-death light…’ When he had done and I opened my eyes, I felt a thrill of delight and freedom. I put on my beret and cycled home, waving goodbye to all the blokes in the barbers shop – I felt we’d made each others’ day.
At home the reception was mixed. Dirk commented rather Dirkingly that I looked like I’d come from a prisoner of war camp; I think it’s a rather visual reminder that I am ill, even though I feel well and the cancer is regressing. But within hours I had support: Nimmy taught me how to create African head-dresses; Julia brought a fetching bonnet for going shopping in; my daughter Rose helped me accept that a wig under a beret looks pretty natural. And Vivianna’s massage lotion has kept my scalp fresh and oiled. I keep wanting to go outside naked-headed but when I have, to collect logs or wave a friend off, I sense that people have found it rather disconcerting. Am I brave enough to help educate the public about the effects of chemotherapy or shall I just keep this new sense of carefreedom to myself?