I was always the Carrie. Miranda was too uptight, Charlotte too conservative, and Samantha, well, too SAMANTHA. Carrie was quirky, fun and a writer— to me, she was always the most relatable. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer a friend reminded me that in Sex and the City’s final season Samantha also gets the big BC. I retreated to my couch stat and reintroduced myself to my favorite Manhattan socialites. Suddenly, Samantha was no longer just the slutty friend, she was my life.
The way she deals with the cancer was spot on for me. She had always been the toughest in the gang, so when she’s diagnosed with such a crippling disease, she masks her fear by being overly confident and overtly sure that everything is going to be all right. She faces cancer with her usual dry humor and is determined not to let it alter her fabulous life in the slightest. She surrounds herself with her friends while getting chemo, shaves her head alongside her movie star boyfriend and wears a different wig every single day.
Sex and the City has long been said to be the modern girl’s Bible, but goodness gracious, I never thought Samantha would become the one I look up to— my cancer Jesus.
For Samantha it all got real when she started losing her hair.
When I was first diagnosed I felt like I was in a tornado, my old life up-ending and my new life just waiting for the cancer to take hold. All of a sudden I was one chemo session in and waiting for my hair to begin falling out. I knew it was inevitable and I like parties (like Samantha) so I put two and two together and had a Taylor Swift Hair Cutting Party where I’d cut my long hair short… in front of an audience. I had a few friends come over and they tied my strands into a bunch of mini ponytails and chopped it all off with dull Crayola scissors. We surrounded ourselves with photos of Taylor (her platinum blond bob being the inspiration) and 10 minutes and some red lipstick later I was the redheaded version of Swiftness. My makeshift barbers all left with a lock of hair and I was in high spirits. Happy my new cancer life still felt somewhat normal… even with the short bob I had never before had the courage to go through with.
Actual real cancer though, still seemed, very far away.
A week or so passed and nothing happened. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I was impervious to hair loss. But then— like my head was punishing my mind for even having such a thought— my hair started falling out in clumps. I woke up one morning to a massive wad of red greeting me on my pillow like a proud tooth the tooth fairy forgot to pick up.
And that’s when it sunk in. I had cancer, and I was now, officially, going bald.
More and more hair would come out with everything I did. I’d forget and accidentally rub my fingers through and they’d come out full. I’d take a shower and the drain would clog, so I just went ahead and gave up showers completely. I fought it off for a few more days, gingerly wearing hats and walking around like I had a glass vase on my head.
It was time. I decided to have yet another party. A Buzz Cut Party. The first one was fun, so why not make the whole dang process fun?
But this one was different.
The music’s on, the pizza’s been served; it started totally fine. Then, suddenly, there’s a towel on the floor and the buzzer is buzzing and WHOA! THIS IS NOT FUN AT ALL. I’m scared to death. The friends are all silent. It’s awkward. My brother, Camden, is holding the buzzer asking where I want him to start. There was no way to prepare for this. This is no cause for a party. I haven’t been bald since I was an infant and now I’m sick with cancer and about to lose my Taylor Swift bob and I don’t know where I want him to start! He starts in the middle and I cry. There’s no funny ideas or quips like “Let’s make a mohawk!” or “Leave just a rat tail!” It’s just sucky and I want it to be done, and then, once it finally is, I can’t even look at myself in the mirror. I have to sit on the couch cause I feel like I might faint. I’m being dramatic but I can’t help it.
Then Camden wants to buzz his. And my boyfriend, Manny, does too. (Just like Samantha’s movie star boyfriend.) Now we’re all bald and we hug and count to three and look in the mirror. We make a few ill-fated jokes, and the party is over. So, so over. The people leave. Sorry for the bust-of-a-party, friends!
Afterwards it’s just me and Manny. I can pretend everything is normal if I don’t look in the mirror but when I look at him and see his shaved head I remember that he’s looking at me and seeing mine and that’s hard.
It takes a few days to feel normal again. But I eventually do and even (somewhat) get used to my baldness. That’s also when my inner Samantha shows up and I realize that I don’t need to still be the fabulous party host. I don’t need to hold on to my old life, clenching with both hands, trying to make it the exact same as it used to be, because it’s never going to be the exact same again. There’s nothing I can do or change about it. I don’t need to wonder if Manny still thinks I’m pretty because it’s still me. And there are wigs. All I have to be sure I hold on to is confidence and staying true to who I am, because that’s what’s really sexy, and that’s who he loves.
Soon after, I find a wig that’s similar to my old hair. A long red one that looks totally real and makes me feel normal and confident. I’m ready to face the world again, and, as much as chemo allows, I do.
One day a few weeks later I get a surprise package in the mail from an old high school friend. Inside are six wigs. They are cheap costume wigs that were used atop mannequins at an H&M in San Diego. There’s red, blonde, purple and a black Pulp Fiction bob. I laugh and pose and have the best time trying them all on. This is the new me. Cancer Lindsay, who may not host the best parties anymore, but whose hair is definitely partying, matching whatever colorful personality or get-up she has on that day. Mixing her Carrie quirkiness, with her true Samantha style.
*As seen on Keep-a-Breast.org