• hannefoighel

hair, hats and new brows

Updated: Aug 11

The bald look has become synonymous with cancer, although, in reality, it is a consequence of the treatment and not of the disease itself.

“Wow! We have almost the same hairstyle,” a young woman with short red hair, I had just met, exclaimed enthusiastically. Coincidence had brought us together. We were to sit side by side on the 29th row in Tel Aviv’s huge concert hall. The evening’s program featuring Shostakovich’s second piano concerto. One of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.

She sounded her excitement as I took off my hat, and revealed my head covered by just millimeters of downy hair. Half of it gray-white and almost invisible; the rest a darker gray. I thought it would take a magnifying glass to see anything grow. But this kind stranger apparently saw my down as a hairstyle!

Throughout the winter, I have been hiding my bald head in scarves and woolly hats. Just as infants lose heat from their heads, so do we, the adults. We freeze from the head when all our hair is gone.

Now summer has arrived, and I have to wear a hat outdoors so as not to be burned by the sun. But whenever possible, I wear my bald head naked.

There is something weird about cancer and hair.

“It may seem absurd that the prospect of losing one’s hair and eyebrows frightens people more than the risk of losing one’s life. Life as a chemo-patient is absurd,” an acquaintance wrote to me. He had just ended his own months-long chemotherapeutic cancer treatment.

As soon as I had been told that I would lose my hair two weeks after my first chemo treatment, I could hardly wait to get it all off. And of course, I should have a wig. Although the friend that gave me the address of one of the best wigmakers in town,underlined time and time again how unimportant it was to have a wig. She had hardly ever used the one she had had made by the same wigmaker – for that same reason.

Exactly two weeks after I started treatment, my hair began to fall out, and I went back to the wigmaker. In a moment, he had shaved my hair off and installed my custom-made wig. It looked exactly like the short salt and pepper-colored hair I had minutes before.

Three women trying to choose between a blonde and a brown wig screamed aloud when they saw me; they had never seen a gray wig before.

To be frank, I almost never wore it. Maybe twice in six months. I got used to my glossy bald head so quickly that I thought the wig (hair) looked weird. I found it challenging and kind of fun every day to tie colorful scarves in new ways.

I also bought two hats from a young Italian hatmaker so-called cloche hats. A red and a black one. Both earned me enthusiastic comments wherever I wore them.

The bald look has become synonymous with cancer, although, in reality, it is a consequence of the treatment and not of the disease itself.

But of course, I longed for the day when the treatment would finally end, and the new hair would sprout. I wondered how long it would take after the end of the poison for the hair to begin growing? In the Facebook-group for ovarian cancer, a loving soul had posted photos of herself, one, two, three, four and five months after her last treatment.

“For all of you asking,” as she wrote. A huge thank you to her.

At the time of writing, eight weeks have passed since the last infusion. And like everything in the spring, my hair grows. New hair appears all over the body. My eyebrows are also recovering. And my eyelashes. They had suddenly disappeared after five rounds of chemistry. Now suddenly they are coming back.

When we were kids, my grandmother always told us to make a wish if an eyelash hair fell out. Blowing the little hair into the air would make the wish come true.

The day the very last hair on my eyelids fell out, I made one single intense wish. Of course, I cannot say aloud, what I wished for.

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