A Hairy Situation

I know this will sound pathetically superficial, but I love my hair.

My hair and I go way back.  When I was a girl, it was long, thick, and waist length.  Hair trims were infrequent and I often amused myself in junior high and early high school by crafting elaborate French braids, fishbones, and twists.  Right around my sophomore year in high school, I noticed peers parading by before the start of school (athletes and cheerleaders, mostly) with their hair secured by foam rollers at scalp level.  So I gave it a try:  if I installed the hair rollers just before bedtime when my newly washed hair was not too wet but not too dry, by morning I would be rewarded with cascading silky spirals that would last at least until lunchtime.

Being a deeply impressionable teen, I wanted my hair to look like Elisabeth Shue’s in the original Karate Kid. In truth, I would have been better served admiring Tamlyn Tomita’s up-do in Karate Kid II, but the sequel came along a year or two late.  Anyway, by the time I was a high school senior I yearned for a solution longer lasting and more predictable than the foam rollers or standby curling iron, and I worked myself up to a beauty salon’s stinging, smelly transformation of my stick-straight hair into chemically induced waves. The frankly unpleasant experience was but a rite of passage into curl world, a small price to pay if I wanted to hang out with kids like Ralph Macchio. (Who knew that just a couple of decades later my own daughter would sport the coveted head of curls, although hers came the honest way, through her father’s genes.)

The euphoria lasted all of a month.  Within short order, I realized that I lacked the beauty acumen and products to properly maintain my curls and my hair ballooned into a puffy, frizzy mess, as shown in my senior yearbook photo in which la coiffure comprises 40% of the image space.  Ah, the 80’s. Fortunately, I came to my senses months afterward and lopped off most of my follicular folly via a modified hairectomy (classic bob).

Reverting back to what was familiar I grew my hair out, at times vying with Earl for the long hair award, as recorded years later in our wedding photos.  One is never completely satisfied, however, so over time I have flirted with bangs, no bangs, blunt cuts, tapered cuts, and now profuse layering, which injects an edgier, more youthful look to counteract the white hairs sprouting mercilessly to and fro.

Enter cancer.

No, I haven’t lost my hair yet, but my tresses’ days are numbered.  Chemo starts next month, and my drug of choice, Taxol, results in significant if not complete alopecia (hair loss) for almost all patients.  Prior to settling on Taxol, I had also considered Taxotere as a buddy agent for Herceptin.  Taxotere and Taxol are both derived from yew trees and have similar side effects, but they are each notorious for an especially viciously thorough side effect.  Taxol Toes is a nickname for the severe neuropathy suffered by many Taxol patients (and why I will try to protect myself with Vitamin B-6, Glutamine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, and ice packs).  Taxotere meanwhile has earned itself the moniker Taxotears because of the permanent alopecia up to 6% of patients have experienced.  When I realized I could completely and permanently lose the hair on my head (and elsewhere), I searched for a work-around, which I’ll cover in my next post.


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