I never thought the words poison and pretty could exist in the same sentence. I wouldn’t normally group them together because they are polar opposites. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago while I was in the cancer center waiting room that another patient commented on my hair. She asked me if my hair came back white after my chemo. I quickly explained that my hair was white from my new chemo. I originally had brown hair. It wasn’t until I was done talking that she said, “sometimes poison can be pretty.”
The white hair obsession had officially begun. My hair is completely white now with specks of brown scattered throughout. The brown specks are still in my hair thanks to the occasional breaks I get in my chemo regiment. I quickly learned that not only is a young adult cancer patient a rare thing to see, but one with white hair is baffling to some. I mean who wouldn’t stare at someone who has the face of a 23 year old and the hair of someone in their late 60’s.
I didn’t realize the obsession other people had with my hair until one day when I was at the cancer center. I was waiting in line to check in after yet another rough night when I was sick. I looked white as a ghost. I don’t think the hair helped either. I didn’t want to talk to anyone or be noticed. I made the mistake of taking my hat off and exposing my white hair. It was as if someone had placed a neon sign above my head that said, “Look here.” Everyone and their mother, brother, sister, aunt, child, and everyone in-between kept glancing over at me. They are lucky I didn’t have a wireless amplifier and said, “ Is this thing on? Yes my hair is white. Yes I am young to have white hair. Finally, I have cancer just like you. If you would like me to answer questions about my hair, feel free to fill out a comment card and drop it inside the box located near where I am sitting.”
While I was waiting to check in to get my fluids that day the woman behind me in line felt the need to talk to me. Apparently I looked like I wanted to be talked to, so she just jumped right in. She started with, “Oh I love your hair. How did you get it to look that way?” I kindly replied, “It’s a result of my chemo that I am taking.” Then she decided to further the conversation with, “How interesting. Well when I was on chemo….” I stopped listening. I find that many times when you mention you have cancer to the right people they feel the need to share their story, even though they were asking about you. They always seem to turn it right back to themselves. Thankfully I was called next and she waved goodbye. Thanks for noticing my “interesting hairstyle.” My mom knew right away when I sat down someone had talked to me because she started laughing at the story.
Now when I go for appointments everyone always is talking about my hair. I don’t mind when they comment to me about my hair or say how it looks. My favorite was when I went to visit my friends in radiation at my most recent appointment. I hadn’t been to visit them since the white hair and I wanted to see how they would react to it. Perfect reaction was when I walked back and all of them were saying how awesome it looked. Plus they give some of the best hugs.
Then I have the people who have no idea how to react to my hair. They think I am trying to make a statement or be part of some fashion craze. I have seen the double takes and the people whose glare suggests that in their mind they are thinking “WTF?” Most of the time I just wave if I catch someone staring at me for an awkward period of time. It’s my little way of saying, “Yes I can see that you’re staring and by the way, it is obvious.” It was like that when I had no hair too, but at least then people knew I had cancer. White hair isn’t a common side effect for chemo.
There are places that I can go where people truly understand why my hair turns white. The woman that told me that poison is pretty knew the reason behind it. She didn’t ask a thousand questions about why it changed color or if I decided to dye it this particular shade. As soon as I said chemo she started talking about how pretty it was. Everyone else in the waiting area understood too and it was a nice change of pace. That’s one thing about people who have cancer they just get it. There are not bizarre questions or random statements to try to make you feel better. They have been in your place at one time and know what it is like.
My hair has been compared to an owl and an old lady. One fun fact is that if you hold a section of my hair straight up, you can see a perfect line of brown hair. There is no way you could recreate that line. Hence why I have the brown speckles though out. If people want to look at my hair from a distance that’s fine by me. I generally don’t let people touch it because I find it awkward. People don’t normally walk around touching each other’s hair.