Eight years ago I lost all my hair, and almost my life, to final-stage cancer.
I was scared and needed warmth, care, comfort. I needed love and somebody who would hold me and tell me that I was safe, that I would live, that I’d be okay.
But I felt lost, abandoned.
People cried, frozen in shock and panic, and were overwhelmed and paralyzed by their fear of possibly losing me. And it was me who had to comfort them, hold them and tell them that everything would be okay.
I didn’t have the strength to hold myself. I was in survival mode, somehow managing to actually get through it alive. But I was numb, disconnected.
Two nights ago, I made the choice to “go back,” and heal the trauma of being completely alone during one of the most horrible times in my life. Because I’m ready and because I deserve it.
I imagined it would be cathartic, powerful and beautiful—which it was, and is—but I didn’t see all the things coming that would get stirred up.
Two nights ago I shaved my head.
I’m having that urge to hide again. I feel so raw, it’s almost unbearable.
And there is a paradox of feeling helpless, exposed and naked versus a sense of tremendous strength and power for being the one who chose to relive this, for feeling the love and compassion I have for myself.
I like the look a lot. I feel weird, almost vain or arrogant for looking in the mirror and seeing an insanely beautiful woman.
With all my imperfections, with all my “badassery” and boldness, with all my insecurities and stubbornness, I am perfect.
You’d think this wouldn’t be a big deal—I’ve gone bald before, so nothing to whine about. But last time it “happened,” almost as if it was “done to me”—because cancer.
That way, I was kind of entitled to be different, special, and I deserved to be treated with extra care and kindness and gentleness. I was sick, after all.
I had the right to ask for help or to go first in the line at the pharmacy, because I was weak. Back then, I was able to accept being treated like the precious and special being that I am—that we all are.
Now I’m a healthy person who just made a “crazy move” by shaving my head. It feels to me like I’m being viewed as a mischievous teenager, like a person who takes pleasure in shocking their environment and causing inconvenience.
A member of my choir texted me yesterday, saying that they hoped my hair would grow fast and that this choice helps heal my trauma, stating they personally would have sought a less extreme way to deal with this. Others may think my cancer is back, and I’ll either be alienated or showered with pity.
I didn’t consider the choir’s reaction. And now I’m faced with the risk of being judged or called selfish.
We’re all equal. We’re all worthy. But society won’t stop trying to clip the wings of those who dare to stand out.
It makes me sad and angry, aggressive even. Some people lose their hair and it never comes back. But what is upsetting those around me is that I chose to go without the hair on my head.
And that’s a pretty accurate reflection of the dynamic we have on a global level. Be it religion, or which gender we love, or whether or not we have kids, as long as it’s something that “happens to us,” without us actively going against the norm, they have all the compassion and understanding in the world.
But the moment we choose to do or be different, to disturb the snooze-mode of routine and status quo, to cause confusion and inconvenience, that moment of choice brings out loads of prejudice, hostility, resistance and at times even force, to get us to succumb to the rules again.
So although it feels right to me, this time I feel like I did something bad. And I see just how big of an influence other people’s opinions and reactions still has on me—how much it hurts to hear their judgement.
Part of me doesn’t care. Part of me is ready to punch them in the face. But I’m also shocked by my own power and courage. I’ve always been this way, but now I’m beginning to realize that it’s actually a thing, that I actually have the power to choose and to create. And to bear the consequences of my choices. That’s the next big lesson.
When I had cancer, there were no consequences for standing out and being different. And there was this sense of entitlement. I didn’t even know if I’d survive, so I had nothing to lose. I could just be me and accept help, accept being treated extra-nice. Nothing was my fault and everyone was super understanding. I was dealing with the worst, while struggling to live.
This time all those buffers and excuses are no more. This morning I woke up and thought to myself, How crazy! All the feelings and tears from back in the days of cancer, plus having to defend my choice.
I have nowhere to hide.
I’m bearing all the feels (and they are washing over me in massive waves of despair, sadness, fear, and of course, abandonment). This is what I wanted. I wanted to give myself the chance and the space to deal with it and heal it.
But bearing the consequences—what gets stirred in me and outside of me—this is something I hadn’t considered.
Most of the time we don’t know, or don’t want to see, just how powerful we are. What masterful creators and directors we are.
Life is easier and we can keep complaining and feeling miserable, not capable of doing something, when we’re hiding in victimhood and conditioning, when we keep holding onto the box we want to fit in, because it’s less work than standing tall in our power and truth and burning that box.
I want to belong. I crave approval. And it took something radical, like recreating my cancer “hairdo” to help me understand that everything I’ve swept under the rug is back, amplified. To understand that it takes balls to expose yourself as you.
I’m discovering how much love I have for myself. How sweetly I’m able to treat myself and also how fierce and confident I am. It will take time to adjust to my nakedness, which I feel emotionally, physically and mentally, but there’s a power in who I am, in my look and my values, which I’ve never felt before.
Right now, I’m not keen on “getting my hair back.” At least not the mane I kept growing post-cancer, to get the old me back.
It feels freaking awesome to rock out to my favorite music in front of the mirror, smiling from ear to ear, looking and feeling strong and healthy, and experiencing the bald me in a new context—no cancer monster in the room this time.
All the beauty, fragility and tenderness is embraced now. I can take my time and you bet I’m celebrating myself and my life.
Author: Lina Boldt
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron