From Hair to Eternity

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

Hair has always been a non-factor for me. Mine was pretty much just “there” all my life.  Dishwatery brown; not Marcia-Brady-long-and-straight like I always wanted. Not curly cool…  Just sort of in-between.

Aside from a bad bang run-in with the scissors when I was seven, the only big hair drama for me was when I moved to San Francisco after college. Wanting change and a new look at life, I chopped it super short and dyed it platinum blonde. My identical twin Kelli went into shock and my dad assured me that it was okay with him if I was gay.

When I went to China I bumped into all kinds of challenges, from hellish humidity to the woman who cut my bang cowlick off to the scalp because she didn’t know what to do with it (what?!). In desperation, I tried an over-priced but under-talented Hong Kong stylist who told me that my head was shaped too weird to cut properly and finally landed with a French salon that could at least make me presentable while overseas.

Last fall I returned home with great relief to my girl Patti, the coolest and most talented hair stylist on the planet (of local salon Green). And, about 2 years after the rest of America, I also found a way to make it behave with the omnipotent flat iron.

But still. Hair. Not a thang for me.

When I started to lose my locks with the chemo, I was stunned to realize how much it bothered me. It truly has been one of the hardest parts of this journey, which as I understand for most women, is a very common response.

The first major trauma was wig shopping. It was early days in the first round of chemo and I still had my nondescript but all-there hair. (It typically falls out 2-3 weeks after initial treatment) After getting my prescription for my “prosthetic hair device,” I marched into a local wig shop that specializes in women who lose their hair for medical reasons. Because I was dreading it so much I decided to make an event of it. I pulled Hadley and Emma out of school and the three of us were joined by twin sis Kel to make the most of it together. It’ll be fun, I told myself.

Yeah right.

Meet the Stepford Wife me. (aka "Coty")

I walked in and was a total goner. I pretty much entered into an out-of-body state so I could avoid falling to pieces in front of the girls. This wasn’t me, how could it be? Lining the walls were wigs of all shapes and colors, but all I could see was Loni Anderson from WKRP in Cincinnati staring at me, with Dolly Parton to her right. I soldiered on and we tried on all kinds of synthetic options, from the shaggy, supposedly sexy “Cameron” to the “Coty,” which was like a Stepford Wife version of my own hair.  Weeeeiiirrd.

This is the "CEO." Complete with Hadley's little "smile" doll she's let me borrow.

I walked out of the door with a natural hair wig on order that matched my hair color and cost me $1,000 bucks (non-reimbursable by insurance despite my prescription.) It would take a week to get it in, which was just barely enough time for me to have it before my hair was gone. This wig was called the “CEO,” no lie. The girls took me to Kenny and Zukes to cheer me up and I all but cried in my matzo ball soup.

I moped around for a while and then came to realize that this was what made all this cancer stuff suddenly real. And that’s why it was so unnerving. Yes, I felt crap with the chemo but my persona, the thing that made me Kerri, was all going to end up on my pillow and on the shower floor in a matter of days. And that was harder.

So, I took matters in hand and called for reinforcements. I dialed Patti (my rockstar stylist) and we booked her salon for an evening the following week. I invited my close Sellwood girlfriends and we made a party of it, complete with brow waxes and make-up touch ups for all of them and a few bottles of wine and good cheese to round out the night.

My Sellwood girl posse.

The wonderful Patti and Heather and the scared me.

Short 'do. Something to look forward to!

My plan was for Patti to buzz me down to a longish “four” and be done with it. She wanted none of that — thank you very much. First she ordered me over to get a full face of soft but pretty make up from Nicole, her lovely accomplice. Once she had me in the cape she told me that she wasn’t into the notion of attacking me with a noisy, masculine set of clippers. She gave me a real girl haircut, that was as short as I’d had it way back in San Francisco, but more girly and spunky.

And then she took the time to style my wig too. We cut so much off that we decided to rename her from the “CEO” to the “KHP.” Yeah!

Styling me. But really a wig. Funny.

For the next three days while I rocked my short ‘do I actually looked and felt cute. Patti was brilliant. I had enough of my confidence and resolve back to actually face the strange experience of huge amounts of my hair coming out everywhere. For days, I could just pull and I’d have a fistful of hair. The drain in my shower every morning told the story. And to top it off, my scalp was red and really painful. No fun, but I was actually laughing through it all.

Patti is one of my angels.

And then suddenly it stopped.

What was left looked like a strange comb-over, all-over. And in an interesting experiment, the front section that had been died a lighter shade of blonde stuck with me in bigger numbers. Suddenly I looked bizarre and really sick.  “Cancery.”

While I was covering up my dome with hats, scarves and the KHP (aka The Wig), I wanted to be able to come to breakfast without the hassle of that, but avoid scaring the girls. Not to mention freaking out Dan in bed in the morning.  So Kelli came through and buzzed me after all. Although I was having scary images of the Brittany head shave incident running through my mind, my new baldish head was much nicer.  “More Sinead and less baby-orangatun” was the consensus.

Cute on an orangutan. not on me.

Today, I’m kinda falling for my new bald self. The Hong Kong stylist was wrong. My head is actually a nice shape. And my friends tell me my eyes, ears and cheekbones are pretty good too. I’m hoping to have my hair back by Christmas and they say it can grow back totally different. I’ll be more than ready by then.

Oh sinead.

But for now, don’t be surprised if I save the 1K wig for school events and start weeding the yard and coming to work bald and beautiful.

And most of all, me.

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  1. kerri
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for the enthusiasm and encouragement and also for making me laugh. It’s a long strange trip I’m on and it’s helpful to have you all along for the ride.


  2. Annie Skoglund
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Kerri, girl, you are amazing! (I don’t know if you remember meeting me but I’m Erika’s friend, up in Washington.) I am so proud to find you writing a blog…you have me laughing, crying… you need to publish this when you get your clean bill of health! I want an autographed copy!!! Your dad’s right. You have a following.

    My friend in MN had straight, medium brown hair before she lost it and ended up with dark, super curly hair when it grew back. Waiting for Christmas morning as a little kid, wondering the sex of your unborn baby, anticipating what your hair will be like when it grows back…I know – hair, but it IS something exciting! Thinking of you~annie

  3. Posted April 30, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Hi Kerri. I’m an artist in residence at Sitka with your mom and she forwarded your blog to me. I wish my book was already done and out because it could prove helpful. “The Hairless Book: How To Be A Beautiful Bald Woman” is for any woman who loses her hair, temporarily or permanently, and has tons of hair facts, personal stories, how to’s, hairless activities to do, and experiences from my years of being hairless. While I didn’t have cancer, everyone thought I did (after a 2 year mystery, mine turned out to be environmental poisoning – sometimes it’s dangerous to breathe where you work). I responded to my sudden surprising hairlessness in ways that seem vaguely similar to you – group wig shopping, crying and laughing, going bald or with a hat (if it was cold) 99% of the time, staying positive. It’s amazing how much our hair means to us without our knowing it. People think the underlying reasons for the hairlessness are the biggest hurdles and there are lots of books on how to survive and thrive with cancer and other diseases, but issues surrounding female hairlessness in western society remains mostly quiet. Anyway . . . just wanted to let you know that you’re doing great, hairless and all! If you ever desire someone to talk to who has lots of hairless experience and remains happy despite it all, lemme’ know. : ) -Stephanie

  4. amy abrahams
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    i always thought that Sinead looked great bald and i’m sure you exude the same type of cool, beautiful vibe! so glad your hair-stylist friends were there for you. remember, all those celebs never go anywhere without their hair stylists. i think of you often and love reading your blog – your writing skills are quite impressive.
    sending a big hug your way,

  5. Kelly (Hughes) Merri
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Keri, you would look beautiful bald, short hair and sporting the wig. I saw you in that beautiful scarf on FB, never knowing of cancer, I just thought, Keri, beautiful and cheerful as ever. Thank you for sharing your blog. I am thinking of you!

  6. Richard De Wolf
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I had to get instructions on how to leave a post on a blog. You think you’re not a blogger! I gotta say, this is sad stuff, but your writing cracks me up. When the doctors say that your hair might grow back different, that sounds kind of exciting. Like a suprise after all of this, or a decent fortune cookie after a bad Chinese dinner. Speaking of, and you commented on her in this posting too,

    If you want the rainbow, you must to put up with the rain. D. Parton

  7. P. Dew
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    You look good to me, girl. Always have and always will. And I’ve seen the FYEO photo! ( Your sign language was charming.) Marcia Brady was never in your league.
    If I had been along for the girls trip to the beauty parlor, I would have had more than an eyebrow wax done to support you. Even a beard-ectomy if you really needed that much encouragement. Love those Sellwood mommas.
    Going back to the real world today, so won’t be checking your blog quite so often. I’ll be using the Luddite chair at the library, and it’s a popular seat. I’m not the only one.
    It will surely happen. I’m becoming addicted to the Perils of Clarice, aka The Baldy Chronicles, aka Is The New One Up Yet?, aka Did You Read Her Latest? , etc, etc. You’ve created a following. We all celebrate you, your Winston Churchill stand, and unfailing ‘tude. Stand proud.

  8. Dalla Johannsdottir
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    The description of finding a stylist in China is hilarious and I have a similar experience. I love your blog Kerri, you are a talented writer!

  9. Patti
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Kerri, you are a beautiful and inspiring woman, mother, friend, sister and so on…
    You are truly one of my angels. I am honored to be in your life.
    Much love, patti

  10. Jane Kennedy
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kerri,
    I love your blog, you are very brave and have been really vulnerable in the midst of something that we never even imagine we will have to face.
    Have been thinking and praying and sending warm Aussie thoughts your way…Lv Jane (Kel’s Fiji friend)

  11. Anna Cornell
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Dear Kerri, you are beautiful with CEO hair, with Dolly Pardon hair, without Marsha Brady hair, with a scarf and a bandana on your head, with a monkey on your head, with a basket of flowers on your head, with a pancake on your head, with an eels album taped to your head, with a big stack of books balanced on your head and you are even more beautiful when we can see your face without anything hairy, covery or stacky on your head. xoAnna

  12. Ian hoyt
    Posted April 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Kerri, love your blog, you know there isn’t any justice in this world when you lose your locks but uncle dew gets to keep his beard. I think of you often

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