1/13/2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow



As I sat out front in my car, staring at that black door that had changed my life, it was hard to get up the courage to walk back inside. First it was cold out and so nice and warm in my car. Secondly, I knew, stepping out of my car put me one step closer to that black door. And once through it, a haunting memory would come back. One I had avoided looking at for quite some time. But, summoning up inner strength I knew I had, I opened the door and I walked out.

There, that wasn’t so bad. I walked around and approached the door, remembering how it felt like alittle over three years ago to be standing right here, at the same spot, infront of this shop, the same person but feeling so much different. It seemed like a lifetime ago. I opened the door very slowly, then reached out for the inner door knob to go in the offices and once inside, I was immediately greeted by Gale Nowlen, the owner. “Wow, you look great!” I saw down, looked around, breathed deep and then relaxed. Yes, I was back.

The woman Gale was attending to was having her hair trimmed. She looked over at me and sensed something special was going on, something was in the air. She said, looking from Gale to I, “Do you two have a secret or something?” I told her the short version, “Mame, the last time I was in here, she shaved my head. Yep, this lady here shaved off every hair off of my head and had me walk out of here stark bald!” Gale and I laughed as the woman grabbed the top of her head not seeming to find my comments near as humorous as I. Gale intervened explaining that I had begun cancer treatment and was about to lose all of my hair from the drug. I had been advised to have my hair taken off since it was long to avoid the shock of it falling out. I came in like a scared rabbit, intending on having it cut down quite abit. Gale gave me the courage to say “take it all off” and leave it behind, there on the floor of that salon and not look back. I walked back out of that shop, with a scarf tied around my head , standing up straight and saying “One day I will come back to this shop and you will do my hair and next time, it won’t be on the darn floor when I leave!”

I thought of that day many times over the past three years. Not just on the days when I was bald, but on the days when the fuzz starting coming back on my head and I felt like a peach. Then when my hair started picking up a bit of curl I wanted to come back and show Gale how my hair didn’t come back pocker straight and thin and flaunt the fact it was a wee bit nicer. But somehow, even then, I could not bring myself to walk in that door. It was as if, walking in there, was facing demons, facing one of the real ugly parts of having cancer I did not want to look at eye to eye. And then as it grew and I colored it and cut it, it was easier to push that memory way back and give up that darn idea of going back to that shop. What did it matter now anyways?

On Wednesday of this week, I was at a luncheon with a group of cancer survivors. I had just got done saying to someone I needed to find a new hair dresser. A mutual friend walked in the tea house we were at and came over to join us. She overhead my question and told me of a wonderful lady that does her hair and is fabulous. She even knew this stylist was a cancer survivor herself so was very compassionate. The name of her shop was All About Changes and she owned the shop. As she said the stylist’s name, I instantly recognized it. My mouth dropped open; it seemed like a sign that I was supposed to go there. My friend gave me the number to the shop and told me to call her. The next day, after putting it off, I finally did, half hoping she wouldn’t answer. But she did answer and there I was, on the phone and wondering what are the odds of her remembering me? I recanted some of who I was and she pretty quickly said, “Oh, I remember you, you were Italian and had long dark hair and I talked you into just having it all shaved off. “

Today, I walked in there. Today, she saw that my hair has returned. Today, she told me that my hair is as beautiful as ever. Today that floor was not covered with my hair when I left. Today I left with my head of hair held high. Today, before I left, she was crying because she told me the saddest day in her cancer battle was the day she lost her hair. See when Gale shaves someone’s head for cancer, she does it for free, as a way of giving back to others and it forces her to relive one of the saddest moments in her life. And she does so willingly for others. She did that for me, over three years ago. We shared a bond in that moment, one that needs no words.

Shaving a head is hard for a cancer patient, no matter what your occupation. But being a stylist and having a client come back to your shop to say thank you for shaving my head with so much compassion when I thought my world was caving in made her feel wonderful and she should. I will always be grateful for the part she played in my recovery. And to think I gave her such added joy by simply walking back in there and saying, please style my hair,well that made us both smile. Yes, today there was hardly any hair on the floor, there were only tears of joy and thanksgiving to flow and a sense we will continue to see each other as survivors. Ah, I have come to love that word! Oh, and yes, the feel of my hands and fingers running through my hair. No such thing as a bad hair day once you have had no hair! Today, Gale and I experienced some healing. Perhaps it is fitting that her shop then is called All About Change.

Thank you Lord for every strand of hair on my head! >
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