Today my red hair is long.
It’s been my pride and joy since the day I realized the ginger hair atop my head was rare and made me different. It’s been a huge part of my life–one I’ve absolutely adored.
This weekend, however, my hair is supposed to start coming out in clumps. Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Breast Cancer. At 33.
I love being a redhead. I’ve been to the World’s Largest Redhead Festival in the Netherlands three times, in fact. I’ve met redheads from all over and have remained friends with them. I’ve been an active member of the tight knit redhead community and have experienced the sense of immediate camaraderie one feels upon meeting another Red.
I know too well that feeling of secret superiority when we look each other in the eye, gloating in the fact that we possess that rare gene that makes us so special.
But now that part of me is leaving.
I’m two weeks into chemo now and my red hair is all going to fall out. Soon.
First it will come out in spotty clumps and then I’ll be forced to shave my head completely. The hair I used as a security blanket will be no more. My uniqueness will be lost.
I was going to get a wig. I was going to get a long red one–Julia Roberts Pretty Woman style. My dream hair. But I knew it would feel fake. Even if I spent thousands of dollars and it looked legitimate, I would know it wasn’t real. And I would feel like an imposter.
Alas, I’ve got to accept this new chapter in my life. I must make the best of it. I will find my uniqueness again and show it in a different way.
I will own my baldness.
And while I’ll still stick out, it’s going to be in a way that will take some getting used to. I will no longer stick out in a way that is boastful, I will stick out because I am a fighter; I am an (almost) survivor.
I will be proud of my shiny smooth head. I am conquering a battle, and I am going to come out on top… no matter what I have on top.
In a few months, once the chemo is over, my hair will grow back. They say it may come back thicker and curlier. They also say it may come back a different color. Of course I am hoping with every last healthy cell in my body that it will grow back red, but either way, I will accept my fate.
I know I will always be a redhead deep down. I will always have the South Park laughs. I will always dress as Ginger from the Spice Girls and Ariel from Little Mermaid. And most importantly, I will always have my friends from around the world that I met every year, over and over, in that small town of Breda (an hour from Amsterdam).
I will always be a part of the redhead community… hair or not.
And while my hair may go, my freckles and pale skin will remain. As will my cherished memories of our 33 years together. I’ve fully enjoyed my time as a redhead, and tonight before I go to bed, I will take a long look at myself in the mirror and remember this moment. If it all falls out tomorrow, I know I’ve taken my hair on a good run.
And you know I’ll be back soon my friends. Happy National Love Your Red Hair Day!
*As seen on HowtobeaRedhead.com