When my sisters came to South Carolina for my breast surgery they hung around for a week or so and one night I decided I would cut my hair short before chemo. Everything I had read said that it was hard for women to roll over on their pillows and see long pieces of hair that had fallen out after chemo. My nephew, Camden was there and my sister, Diane cut my hair. Karen, my other sister was keeping longer pieces of the cut hair so she could make me a headband of my real hair. I could wear it under hats. It was a fun time and I had a nice hair cut before my first chemo.
My sisters left and my friend, Jan went with me to my first chemo. I was back teaching as I had missed the first week of school due to my surgery. I wanted my class to be a part of this so I decided that I would get a buzz cut at school. My friend, Bertram works for The State newspaper and he called another reporter who covers human interest stories who called me about for an interview. She and a photographer were going to come to the event.
So between the first and second chemo treatment, on a beautiful fall day I scheduled “Hair Today, Bald Tomorrow”. All classes, teachers and parents were invited to meet in the quad area for a hair cutting celebration. First, I wanted to show them how my hair was falling out. No one really knew I was already losing hair but I when pulled on my hair and a chunk came out you could hear gasps from students, parents and teachers. I then showed the students a poster I had created about hair follicles and explained how the hair gets started and grows and then chemo comes and kills it. This cycle continues throughout the chemo process.
A parent then give me a buzz cut. It was interesting to watch the faces. The older students, parents and students understood but some of the younger students were laughing. I kidded around with the parent who was cutting my hair. I was then given a mirror and laughed with them. It just looked like a pretty short hair cut.
We then sang a song, God You are My God, as I played the guitar and our principal closed in prayer. I saw the looks on my closest friends, on the teachers I had worked with for nine years and my niece, who made sure she stopped by. I was so glad I had experienced this with them. One of the teachers taped it so I could share it with my family members who couldn’t be there.
Afterward some of the classes wanted pictures taken with me and my class was photographed for the newspaper. As we were getting ready for dismissal and my third graders were talking about my hair cut. Earlier, the fellows didn’t think it was a big deal because they get buzz cuts all the time but the girls understood. The reality hit them all though once they saw me.
Another teacher came and took my class for dismissal. My niece stayed with me. We were talking when Caleb, one of my students came back into the classroom and said he wanted to tell me something. “Miss Hidey, you don’t look like I expected but you’re still beautiful”. What a special moment that was. I thanked him for coming back and sharing that with me as it meant so much. I gave him a big hug. Sarah was so glad she was there and we both had tears in our eyes as Caleb left. How wise Caleb was and I have since thanked him again for coming back and saying that to me. He is now a senior in high school.
The State newspaper ran a big write-up with lots of pictures the following day. They included a conversation that Nickie, one of the girls in my class, had with me. It seems that a lot of the students were thinking the same way.Nickie made a point of reassuring her teacher before the outdoor assembly started. “Miss Hidey,” she said, “you’re still going to be beautiful.” Oct. 10, 2002; Teacher makes her treatment part of lesson by Dawn Hinshaw, © 2001 thestate and wire service sources
I was so glad I made a special celebration of it all. It brought us all together and made what could have been an awkward thing a special moment that I got to share with people who meant so much to me.
With cancer you may look different, and maybe it is not what people expect, but you’re still beautiful. Celebrate those special moments.