After major surgery and many rounds of chemotherapy, I finished my treatment for recurrent uterine cancer in September 2014. I'd started losing my hair in May, and was completely bald by the end of chemo.
Because I am a repeat uterine cancer warrior, I was accustomed to being bald and knew how to handle my baldness in a way that worked for me. In my yoga and CrossFit communities, I was comfortable with my head either completely uncovered or covered only by my trusted baseball cap. At all other times I wore a wig. Scarves just didn't work for me.
Then, slowly, my hair started to grow back. Currently, about 90 days out from my last round of chemo, I have very short hair. I would describe my hairstyle as the perfect military cut -- for a guy! My family and friends are kinder -- they tell me often how great I look with my short hair. I call my look the chemo-cut. I still wear my wig a lot of places, including work.
Adjusting to life with short hair
In my life before cancer, I always had long hair. In fact, when asked, I had trouble remembering when I could NOT put my hair in a ponytail.
Adjusting to short hair the first time was a small, but not unpleasant, challenge. I quickly realized how easy it was to get ready to go out when I didn't have to mess with my hair. I also realized how easy it was to do yoga and CrossFit with very short hair -- even easier than a ponytail. I tried to focus on these positives when I started anticipating my hair growing back this time.
What I had forgotten, though, was how awkward I felt in public with very short hair after wearing a shoulder-length wig for so many months and having essentially perfect hair on my head at all times.
Embracing baldness at MD Anderson
I recently went to MD Anderson to for a check-up PET scan. I knew from experience not to wear any metal for this test as I would just have to take it off when I arrived. My wig has a small amount of metal in it, so I left it at home that day. What a great decision that turned out to be!
Going to MD Anderson was my first venture out in public -- other than yoga or CrossFit -- without my wig or a hat. I realized that day that lots of women were sporting the same short hairstyle -- the chemo cut! I got a lot of smiles and nods from those other women. I felt like we were a special club of warrior survivors.
And, maybe more importantly, I got a lot of smiles from women with all sorts of hats and scarves and other head coverings who were likely still undergoing treatment. Maybe they saw me and recognized what is possible for them. I hope so.
Discovering community and support in baldness at MD Anderson
What I saw on everyone's faces that morning were messages of support. Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt like I was getting a silent high-five from everyone. I was so glad I decided to leave that wig at home.
I also chose to leave my wig at home again the next day when I went back for my test results -- no evidence of disease!
What I learned is that even though I have been a long hair junkie my whole life, and am still wearing my wig to work and most other places that do not involve exercise, I want to show off my short hair at MD Anderson.
The unspoken messages of encouragement and hope between and among us -- the warriors and survivors -- are more important and stronger than any fear of what I look like with short hair.
Marcy Kurtz is a daughter, sister, aunt and dependable friend to many. She practices law as a vocation and yoga as an avocation. As a lawyer and a yoga instructor, she's deeply committed to helping people. Marcy has beaten breast cancer and uterine cancer.