My Loving Locks

22 Apr

“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.


Credit: Locks of Love

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.

In need of a deep conditioner and a style intervention

SWF Seeking Deep Conditioner

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.

Nerves of steel

Nerves of steel

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.

My little pony

My little pony

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?

My hairstylist is a genius

My hairstylist is a genius

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.

136 Responses to “My Loving Locks”

  1. Rohan 7 Things 05/13/2013 at 8:55 am #

    Brilliant post Jen 🙂 That’s amazing commitment, to put 5 years into such a cool project! Thanks for sharing, really inspiring, especially as someone who always thinks their hair sucks haha!

    All the best 🙂


    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:12 pm #

      HA! Who DOESN’T think her hair sucks? Mine is thick, and wavy and generally very unruly. I wish I had thinner, straight hair. My friends want to slap me when I say that. Grass is greener, you know.

  2. stormy1812 05/08/2013 at 8:13 am #

    giving of yourself is amazing! im in the long process of trying to get my own hair under control (its really thick, curly and coarse – never really thought i could donate my hair because its nuttiness haha but who knows maybe one day). anyway – thought this was well done – the right amount of humor to go with the sincerity and very lovely pics 🙂 so happy to hear your grandmother is in full remission. cancer is a scary business. as a fellow jen, im sure i’ll be popping in again.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:13 pm #

      My hair is the same way, although it is no longer as coarse as it once was. Do you use sulfate-free shampoo? Organix makes some fairly cheap ones (I love the Argan oil kind specifically) that have really made my hair better. I also douse it in coconut oil once a week. After that, my hair was growing like a weed!

      Also, always nice to meet a fellow Jen 🙂

      • stormy1812 05/17/2013 at 6:28 pm #

        i just started using sulfate free shampoo; im just not trying to actually take care of my hair properly lol so it may take a bit for it all to get good but it’s going alright; i’ll be sure to check those products out. 🙂
        p.s. – thanks for following my blog! it means a lot

  3. paulaacton 05/05/2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I did it last year for a UK charity making wigs for kids with cancer and other conditions resulting in hair loss The Little Princess Trust it was an amazing feeling to know that with a few cuts of the scissors you could be making a real difference to someone else

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Wow, you did? That’s AMAZING! You look good with short hair so it was a win-win for everyone involved.

  4. suburbanprincessteacher 05/04/2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Nice post. When my mother lost her hair due to chemo she said she was surprised at how sad she felt. She said she didn’t expect to feel that upset about it but she did. A good wig makes a hug difference.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:15 pm #

      I’ve heard/read that a lot- people didn’t know who much they loved their hair until they lost it. I think it’s just adding insult to the injury that is cancer. You already feel so out of control that losing this part of yourself is just further pain to you.

  5. claudiabette 05/03/2013 at 11:23 pm #

    That is the cutest hair cut ever! I used to wear my hair that way when it was short but I keep it long now. I also can’t donate because I dye and I have to dye because at 36, I’m grey 😦 This was a great post! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:16 pm #

      Thanks! I was a little worried how I’d look because curly, thick hair generally doesn’t look good shorter, but the stylist was a genius.

      You can actually donate even if you dye, just no bleaching. Basically, overall coloring vs. highlights. You can look up the rules on their website!

  6. Main Street Musings Blog 04/29/2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Great cut, wonderful deed. 🙂

  7. kaysfairytale 04/26/2013 at 4:52 pm #

    I definitely felt this way when my mom had cancer. Some days I wished it was me who had it instead because it was so much harder to watch her go through it.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:18 pm #

      For a long time I felt selfish feeling like my grandmother’s cancer was affecting me as well, but it isn’t. It’s hard to see someone you love wasting away, and knowing there isn’t much you can do but trust in the medicine and harness the power of positive thinking.

  8. sarahwriteshere2010 04/25/2013 at 5:33 pm #

    I admire your dedication. As someone who went from having long hair to short, I don’t think I could go back again, even if it was for such a good cause. I commend you on your commitment.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:19 pm #

      My hair is so thick and wavy that having it short is a welcome relief! I’d either have to let it be natural and kind of out of control, or straighten it which took nearly an hour the last few months. I will admit, I do miss people commenting on how long and healthy it was, but that’s okay. I’ll grow it out again in the future.

  9. bensbitterblog 04/25/2013 at 11:23 am #

    I don’t even have to worry about getting my hair cut. Nature has done it for me.

  10. michellestodden 04/24/2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Such a lovely thing to do, Jen. And your new cut looks fantastic.

    On a side note, the neurologist just shaved a giant patch of my mom’s hair and she is very sensitive about her locks, even though she has short hair to begin with. I hope someone is with her to hold her hand and give her a hug the first time she looks in the mirror.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:21 pm #

      How is your mom doing? I imagine it’s traumatizing to have that one patch shaved because it’s a constant reminder. Like when we look at a scar, and remember how we got it.


  11. Lyssapants 04/24/2013 at 1:24 pm #

    What patience you have! And the end result was beautiful, both for you and the lucky person who gets your hair.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:21 pm #

      I normally don’t have patience. I mean, I’m the kind of person who gets annoyed having to wait for the Pumpkin Spice Latte to come out every Fall.

      • Lyssapants 05/16/2013 at 3:27 pm #

        So this was a unique outcome for you! Yay! (people get therapy jargon when I comment while at work)

  12. The Bumble Files 04/24/2013 at 10:40 am #

    Jen, it’s so awesome you did this! Way to go!! I know it can make all the difference in someone’s state of mind and give them hope. I admire your dedication taking five years to grow it out. You have such healthy hair, it’s so thick. Your new cut is really cute and looks great on you!

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:23 pm #

      My hair has always been thick, luckily. Healthy? Not so much. I learned A LOT about hair care in the last five years. Surprisingly, it’s just about not putting junk in your hair, and rubbing your head with things like olive or coconut oil.

      I hope whoever gets the hair rocks the hell out of it.

      • The Bumble Files 05/16/2013 at 12:41 pm #

        I love the coconut oil in my hair! I know whoever got your hair really appreciates it. That was a wonderful deed, Jen!

  13. Ruby Tuesday 04/23/2013 at 8:38 pm #

    You’re wonderful, Jen. One of the medications I took years ago made my hair fall out in clumps. I had enough hair still that I was hiding it, and the med was working wonderfully otherwise, but yes, it was traumatic, so traumatic that I would cry after showers and had to stop taking the drug — I couldn’t handle it. You’ve done a beautiful, amazing thing, and I honestly think your new cut is absolutely gorgeous, like you! Love you.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:32 pm #

      My ex’s sister had Alopecia in high school, and I remember him saying what a tough time she had because of it. I couldn’t imagine losing my hair in clumps, and as much as I’d like to say that I would try to be strong and not let it get to me, I think it would.

  14. mabukach 04/23/2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Jen – you are awesome, and you look great. Such a great cause. My grandmother had the same thing/did the same thing during radiation treatments. I never knew they were wigs until my mom told me.

    I’ve always wanted to do this, but never had the balls to go the full ten inches. Let me rephrase that…

    Seriously, you are awesome.

    • Jen and Tonic 05/16/2013 at 12:36 pm #

      I’m really surprised how good some wigs look! If I ever lost my hair for any reason, I’d buy a myriad of wigs and pretend I’m a spy, taking on different identities.

      If you can’t give them the full ten inches, maybe just the tip?

      • mabukach 05/16/2013 at 1:25 pm #

        Lost the tip from frostbite. Thought the friction would save me from the cold. Nope.

        I just put a wig on it.

        What are some of your spy names? Mine’s Trigger Montana.

  15. Bill Friday 04/23/2013 at 1:33 pm #

    I wish I had known about this when I was younger, and had a ponytail of my own. I cut it when it was only 8 inches (yeah, yeah, every guy says it’s 8 inches), but for THIS, I would have waited another year or so, because it would have meant that something GOOD actually came out of my midlife crisis.

    And what you have done is so much more, because you had a vision… years out… and you let nothing deter you from seeing it through. And the 5 years you held to this vision does sort of mirror the 5 year number commonly thought of on the SEER database. Kinda poetic… just sayin’.

    Oh, and one more thing. Short hair on you… BEAUTIFUL.

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:53 pm #

      I should have known you sported a ponytail at some point in your life. The speedo, the beach, the ponytail…it’s like an episode of Baywatch. No wonder I like you so much.

      5 years seems to be the magical number that everyone uses when they have their eye on something they want. It’s a good amount of time to focus and figure out how to get what you need done. That has been my experience, anyway.

      And thanks, B. It’s a huge change, but I like it!

  16. iRuniBreathe 04/23/2013 at 9:32 am #

    Jen — You look amazing! I can say you look great both pre and post, but you are totally rocking the after cut. And what an amazing thing you did! Someone is going to wear Locks de Jen, and feel so great because of it too.

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:51 pm #

      I hope that whoever gets my hair WORKS it. Not because my hair is so amazing, but just because he/she deserves that feelings of happiness.

      • iRuniBreathe 04/23/2013 at 4:42 pm #

        I like those gifts that keep on giving. You grew it with love, donated it with love and intention, and someone gets to feel and look amazing from your efforts. It’s good feelings all round!

  17. joehoover 04/23/2013 at 2:40 am #

    Awesome thing you did, and the new cut looks great aswell, more people should do it. I wish it had been around when I snipped my teenage grunge hair off 20 years ago, it was a bit matted but nothing a good wire comb couldn’t have sorted out. it’s all too late now, I see it trying to detach itself from my head of its own accord every day.

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:50 pm #

      Your hairs are staging their escape every day?! On the upside, I bet it takes you very few minutes to do your hair each day.

      • joehoover 04/24/2013 at 4:13 am #

        I don’t even have to do my hair. Should do something worthwhile with those saved minutes, but I don’t

  18. Monk Monkey 04/23/2013 at 2:09 am #

    Haha those pictures are hilarious! Except for the last one – that’s lovely.
    Well done you!!! The closest thing we have here is bandana day where you buy a charity bandana and wear it to support cancer sufferers. This idea is good too!!

  19. badfads 04/22/2013 at 11:31 pm #

    Shortly after my dad was diagnosed with cancer, I donated upwards of 10 inches of my hair to Beautiful Lengths (similar idea charity-wise). It was an atrocious haircut on me, but I’m glad I did it, and as soon as I have enough hair, I plan to donate again soon. Good job for doing so, and your hair looks adorable!

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:49 pm #

      That’s fantastic that you did that, and I’m glad that despite the bad haircut you had a positive experience. Make sure to blog about it when you donate again!

  20. benzeknees 04/22/2013 at 11:22 pm #

    Love the new do! It’s a cut above the rest! Ba-dum-dum

  21. travellingmo 04/22/2013 at 10:35 pm #

    You look awesome! I’ve known so many people who’ve done Locks of Love over the years and it is always a fantastic experience and a way to give back

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:45 pm #

      That’s great that you know multiple people who do this! A friend of mine told me she’s now growing hers out for the cause. And you’re right, it’s an amazing experience.

  22. SummerSolsticeGirl 04/22/2013 at 8:10 pm #

    How wonderful! And you look lovely too

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:44 pm #

      Thanks! The new ‘do is so much easier to take care of, and several people have commented on it. It was a win-win.

  23. Brother Jon 04/22/2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Good job. A few years back I put up my hair “for sale” about a week before the Relay for Life was going to happen. A couple of girls raised over $500 in that one week….just to see me have my head shaved. It a great cause, thanks.

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:44 pm #

      You did!? Wow, you’re such a rockstar that people want to pay for your hair. I’m not surprised.

  24. shalilah2002 04/22/2013 at 5:51 pm #

    I love the haircut. The style is todays hot style and it fits your face perfectly.

    • Jen and Tonic 04/23/2013 at 2:43 pm #

      Thanks! I wish I could take credit for “keeping with the trends” but my hairstylist deserves that nod.

  25. writerwendyreid 04/22/2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Love this post Jen…what an awesome thing you did. And I love the new style. It’s almost identical to the one I’m sporting right now. 🙂

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