Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye...or their hair.

They say time takes its toll on a body,
makes a young girl's brown hair turn gray.
But honey, I don't care
I ain't in love with your hair
And if it all fell out
Well, I'd love you anyway.
Randy Travis (Forever and Ever)

OK, the "Hair Retrospective" was funny while it lasted. But not funny enough to get through this.

There was no way to help prepare Karen for losing her hair to chemotherapy. Seriously, what does a man understand about the relationship between a woman and her hair? Despite the many hair transformations she's cried over throughout the years, this would be different. Or so I thought.

Signaled a few days in advance by a head-tingling sensation, she started shedding her hair last weekend. It was just as predicted: 10 days into her treatment. First, it was more than the usual strands of hair around the bathroom sink. But by yesterday, a day after her second chemo treatment, strands of hair became fistfuls of hair. And this morning, it just got worse. Karen was literally pulling her hair out. A small wastebasket quickly filled with hair. It was gut-wrenching to witness.

It takes a brave woman to surrender her hair to a set of clippers. Resigned to the reality that the shedding would only get worse, Karen agreed to let me cut her hair short and use the clippers to shave off the rest. Let's just say that I probably don't have any hope for a career in hairstyling (not that I planned one), but using tender care, I clipped her hair down to a 1/4 inch buzzcut. She sat there with quiet and calm acceptance as I pushed the clippers over her head creating a wide swath of brown hair that tumbled to a pile at my feet. The chemo will give up even the little bit of hair that's left and it too will find its way to the wastebasket in the days ahead.

The anticipation and dread of this moment has gnawed at Karen -- and me -- for days, perhaps weeks. But today, I was moved by how Karen handled it with such inspiring courage, calmness and grace. There were a few tears at first, but she ended it with her great big smile -- truly, a smile against which no hairstyle can compete. Karen is beautiful, not because of her hair, but simply because she is beautiful. I continue to be in awe of how Karen has fought this fight, and today was no exception.


  1. Marilyn Fuller-SmithJuly 25, 2009 at 7:16 PM

    Saw Karen today at Stephanie Maurer's house - Looks gorgeous as usual - The key seems to be acceptance - This simply is what it is and tomorrow will be what tomorrow is going to be.
    Peace - Marilyn Fuller-Smith

  2. It's not easy facing such reality. I never had cancer, but thinking about it makes me shiver. And I admire the courage of women who face it with courage. She's been lucky she have you by her side.

  3. Karen still looks better with no hair than a lot of women on their best days, she's just a natural!! Keep up the good work Brian, your blog is an excellent chronicle of the reality of this disease for the family members who go through it also.
    Kudos to you,
    Keirstin O'Donnell
    (Marilyn and Peter's daughter)

  4. As Beautiful as always :-)


  5. You hang in there Karen! I'm a breast cancer survivor. Thank God you have a loving husband to take care of you. My husband took care of me, but he threw it up in my face that he had to sacrifice for me and continues to make me feel so bad about having cancer. I am cancer free for 4 years now and love life but he continues to feel such resentment towards me.
    I wish you all the best and want u to fight like hell!

  6. God, Karen is as gorgeous as ever. Inside and out.

  7. When cancer begins it invariably produces no symptoms with signs and symptoms only appearing as the mass continues to grow or ulcerates. The findings that result depends on the type and location of the cancer. Few symptoms are specific, with many of them also frequently occurring in individuals who have other conditions. Cancer is the new "great imitator". Thus it is not uncommon for people diagnosed with cancer to have been treated for other diseases to which it was assumed their symptoms were due.

    Thanks for share with us, very interesting post.