Today marks the 10th anniversary of my participation in my first St. Baldrick’s Event. My plan shave my head and grow my hair back. What I didn’t expect was how shaving my head that day would change my life. Below is an excerpt from my journal I wrote shortly after.
How shaving my head changed my life…
In January 1994, when I was told I had Leukemia, I immediately asked my doctor if I would lose my hair. When he told me I would, I was thrilled. I had always hated my hair, it was much too thin, straight and I couldn’t do anything with it. I loved being bald – it was fun pulling my hair out, it’s the weirdest feeling when you can pull hair out without it hurting. I remember being told by many people that I had a nicely shaped head. It’s a strange compliment but a great one to hear, especially when you have no hair.
Jumping forward to January 2009, I decided to shave my head for St. Baldrick’s in February. I always knew that one day I would shave my head and St. Baldrick’s provided me with that opportunity. When I told people what I was doing, most reactions were “it will be so freeing and empowering.” I laughed at their comments and thought, “that’s not why I’m doing this. How is it going to be freeing and empowering? I’m shaving because I loved being bald, I’m raising money for pediatric cancer research, and I want to honor of my friend Amanda who is fighting pancreatic cancer.” Plus, I figured my hair would only take a year to reach the length it was.
February 28th was the day. That morning, while I was in the shower, I remember thinking, “goodbye hair, goodbye conditioner,” and when I was finished styling my hair, I put my brush and blow dryer under the sink, knowing that I would not be using them for many months. I was excited the whole day, and finally, it was my turn to go on stage to have my head shaved. I remember being slightly nervous because I didn’t know what I would look like and if would I still have a nicely shaped head. As my head was getting shaved, it tickled, and I could feel the cold air on my scalp with each pass of the razor. As I sat in the chair getting shaved, one of the hairdressers who volunteered to shave heads leaned over and told me I had a nicely shaped head. I laughed because she didn’t realize that I had been told that many times 15 years earlier.
When I left the stage with my shaved head, everyone told me that I looked great. Even people who didn’t even know me said how beautiful I was and that I had a nicely shaped head and could pull off the ‘shaved head’ look. I was amazed since I had never considered myself a beautiful girl. When I finally looked in the mirror, I hardly recognized myself.
I was not prepared for the change that would take place within me over the next few days. Before, when I had hair, when I looked in the mirror, I often would see a pretty person but never used the word “beautiful” to describe myself. I now believe in some ways that my hair held me back. Even after cancer treatment, when my hair grew back, it was still thin. I never really knew how to style it so that it would look good, and in some ways, that made me self-conscious. With a shaved head, I don’t have to worry if a hair is out of place or starting to look stringy (since thin hair usually does so after a few hours.) Now, when I look in the mirror, I am amazed at how beautiful I feel, and I smile.
Shaving my head has been one of the most significant decisions I have ever made. I now know what everyone meant when they said shaving my head would be freeing and empowering. With this newfound confidence, I have started to embrace my femininity. This is a shock to my family since they all know me as the girl in the comfortable clothes, who hated to be called “cute”, never wore makeup, and would only wear “girly” clothes if I was forced to. Over the past month, I have bought makeup AND use it daily, bought “girly” clothes AND enjoy wearing them, and have decided to make sure I look “cute” even when I just have to run errands or go hang out at the dog park. I had professional pictures taken, and again I was amazed at how beautiful they were. I feel the beauty that I have always felt was within me, is now shown on the outside as well.
I’m beautiful, and I keeping my head shaved!