Nadia’s story: Personality

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Nadia’s voice: Twenty-four inches of dreadlocks. It took me 7 years of tender care to grow them. Each lock was its own story. Each lock was entwined and entangled with trips abroad, exotic foods, hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, love, hurt, pain and joy. One January night, while it was freezing outside, my husband, daughter and a handful of friends stood around me with my head bowed. My husband was strong. Then he stepped away. He needed a moment.

He was about to do something he'd done so many times, but this time was different. His hobby was cutting hair. He had a barber chair and cut hair most weekends just for fun. There was no fun in this moment. He took the first cut. He then handed the scissors to someone else, who took a snip. And on and on it went, each person silently approaching and taking with them a long lock of my hair.

Contrary to convention, when I had heard that multiple cancerous tumours had been found in my breast, I cried my tears and then I had to make a decision. Cancer would take my time, my money, my hair, my breast and my energy. Cancer would not take my personality. Cancer would not take my smile. What would I do? I would totally have a party, and so I did. 10 friends joined us for a scarf-making and hair-cutting party. We tie-dyed scarves for me to wear during treatment. It was great to see all the creativity displayed. We were having so much fun, we had forgotten the reason why we were making scarves in the first place.

Then the time had come to say goodbye to my hair. Instead of sitting home alone in fear of the future, I opened up the most vulnerable moment of my life to close friends and family. That circle of support turned the depressing idea of losing my hair into a symbolic moment of hope and power. One after the other, my locks fell to the floor. My 5-year-old picked them up and made an impromptu wig on her own head. We all erupted with laughter. The scarves my friends had made for me made me feel fashionable and pretty. I even named the scarves as though they were high fashion pieces of art that could be admired on a runway.

My hair continued to fall out in the shower. I thought it would have been depressing, but it was actually quite hilarious. Apparently, my scalp looks like Quark, the Ferengi on Star Trek. I had never seen my scalp before. My new scalp had to be adorned. I found out about henna crowns and was fortunate to find someone who was willing to decorate my oddly-shaped scalp with henna. Although it was still winter, I showed it off to whomever, whenever, and wherever possible. I could show off my henna tattoo without having to explain why I no longer had dreadlocks down my back.

Now my henna head is my profile picture on the Cancer Connection Forum. It's great to share with others and to find others who also find humour in some of the weird things that happen to our bodies during cancer treatment. The forum gives me an opportunity to get out of my own head and put thoughts into words. The best thing about the Canadian Cancer Society Cancer Connection Forum is being able to encourage others and share some light and funny posts in the midst of the difficult times. Now my hair is growing again, and I will keep it short for a while because cancer took my hair, but it didn't take my personality.