“It’s just hair.”
I said that to a friend years ago after she got, in her mind, a terrible haircut. I’ve said it dozens of times over the years to people who hate their hair, are having bad hair days, or who have suffered at the hands of an inexperienced or overzealous hairdresser. It wasn’t until my grandmother was diagnosed with Lymphoma five years ago that I realized it wasn’t just hair for some people.
My grandma underwent treatment, and began to lose her hair as many cancer patients do. Alopecia (also known as hair loss) is a side effect of radiation therapy and chemotherapy as the treatments harm the cells which cause hair to grow. It was something that was unexpectedly emotional. For who? Perhaps for all of us in our ways, but especially for her. She hated not having hair so my aunt and I picked out a wig for her so she could feel “normal” while out and about. I’m happy to report that my grandma is in full remission, and has all of her own hair now.
There is a certain helplessness a person feels when their loved one struggles with a serious illness. It is not your own battle to fight, and you are not one of the medical practitioners aiding in the treatment process. You are both directly and indirectly involved, and it leaves you feeling like there should be something more you can do. You just want to help something or someone.
I took to the internet to find my something or someone, and stumbled across Locks of Love, an organization with which I was already familiar.
From their website:
“Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.”
That was it. That was the thing I wanted to do. Sadly, my hair was bleached to high heaven from highlights, and was in no shape to be donated. I spent the first two years growing out the color, the next year getting my hair in good condition, and the last two years growing it out so that I could meet the minimum donation length of 10 inches.
I made an appointment at my favorite salon to do the cut, and anxiously awaited the chop chop of the scissors. I wasn’t nervous at all leading up to my haircut, but I’ll admit that I did have a few butterflies in my stomach over it. Not because I was afraid of losing hair length, but because the thing I had committed five years to would soon be coming to an end.
I brought in a bunch of pictures of hairstyles, talked it over with my stylist, and she measured out my hair. Initially I only wanted to donate 10 inches, but at the last second I told her I wanted to cut off as much as I could. She began snipping away, and joked that she’d have to sharpen her shears after she was done cutting through my ponytail. Thin hair has never been a problem of mine. When I got home and stretched out the hair, we ended up cutting off 14 inches of hair tip to tip.
The number one question I’ve gotten since I cut it is, “How did it feel?” Pure happiness, that’s how it felt. I love giving of myself, and I had the opportunity to give to a child in need. One of my favorite quotes is by Anne Frank: “No one has ever become poor by giving.” I was the richest person in the world on Saturday.
So what do I look like now?
I love it. Less shampoo, less conditioner, less drying time, less knots. It’s shorter than I’d normally wear it, but as I said, I wanted to donate as much as possible. Maybe I’ll keep it this way, or let it grow out a bit, or do a blunt fringe at some point. I’m not sweating it because, for me, it’s just hair.
Interested in the organization and the donation process? Visit the Locks Of Love website.
Interested in where I got my haircut? Priscilla at Salon au Rouge in Portland is magical. I can’t recommend her enough.