“Look at that hair. Who is that person?”
My immediate response was to cringe, there it goes, yet another hair comment. His comment wasn’t intrusive though. He was a coworker that, while not close with me, had always been friendly, and I knew his comment was kindhearted. He wasn’t going to follow it up with any annoying questions, or ask personal facts that one is not inclined to share with those they aren’t close with.
I could write a book about how many inappropriate comments I’ve heard over the past few years. Oh, wait…I am writing a book…there may be a chapter about something like this. OK, you got me…there is. But, this comment was not offensive. It was said it with a smile, completely supportive, nothing negative to be construed from it. I did marvel, for the umpteenth time, at how often people whom I’m not close with think my hair an appropriate conversation item. Deep down, I knew this person meant well. I smiled back, “it’s getting longer, isn’t it?”
That comment carried with me, in the recesses of my mind, fading in and out of my subconscious, until the evening, when I happened to glance at myself in the mirror at the same time as I absentmindedly reached both hands on either side of my face to pull my hair back. I caught sight of the way some of the shorter layers of my hair fell onto the longer layers, the visible end points, slightly more lightened in color from the sun, reflecting back at me. Are those split ends, that maybe I see? Been a while since I’ve had to even think about that.
The earlier question echoed in my brain.
“Who is this person?”
The same, but not the same person is of course the answer. A flood of memories came back, me during my treatment, me…bald…my mind’s eye remembered the me that stared back from this same mirror just a couple of years ago.
A scalp, void of hair.
A face, void of eyebrows, but some indication of a brow bone, beneath my forehead’s surface, that once marked the arch where my caterpillars used to perch.
A pair of grayish-blue eyes, completely void of their lovely rows of protective eyelashes, nothing left to keep the dirt and dust out, completing the picture of vulnerability of one in the midst of treatment.
I remember that me like yesterday, and at the same time, it feels like a lifetime ago. It seems surreal, almost as if it were a story I’d heard about somebody else.
I’m healthier now. My hair has grown back, much the same as before. My skin, wonderfully sun-kissed from a weekend beach trip, once again shows the wrinkles that chemo tried to take away from me.
I may not be back to my old normal, but I certainly have a new normal.
Who is that person?