Five days ago I was in Chicago looking for a place my brain could forget the trauma and trajedy for a moment. Five days ago my sister texted me that it was time to shave her head. Five days ago every tiniest shred of denial fell away. My heart broke. Not even writing was possible.
Sis’s scalp had been bothering her for about a week. Little irritations here and there at first. She said it felt like her hair was constantly being pulled. I knew she would shave her head soon when she started rubbing her scalp all the time. I also knew she would wait until the very last possible moment. My sister has been a hair stylist and a salon manager most of her life. Hair is how she sees the world. I knew she wouldn’t shave hers off until the pain in her scalp was unbearable. That day arrived five days ago.
Last time Sis needed to shave her head a bunch of us shaved ours as well. It was something we could DO in the midst of feeling helpless. It was how we showed my sister that we stood with her through it all. I didn’t shave my head this time. I didn’t need to. My hair is already very, very short. I had my near shoulder length hair cut off after Sis’s lung surgery in January to remove a tumor. Long feminine hair makes me feel weak in moments of great stress, times when I need to be my strongest. So, it had to go.
I had to do a lot of mental twisting to find some peace about my sister’s shaved head. With or without hair, my sister is always beautiful. I needed to find a way to make her bald head something more than a sign of the cancer in her body.
It took a few days, but I found the peace I was seeking. Here’s what came to my mind. Yes, the chemotherapy is attacking my sister’s body and making her hair fall out. But if it is already attacking my sister, it is already attacking the cancer as well. I now see my sister’s bald head as a sign that we are kickin’ cancer’s ass.