A year ago yesterday, I found out I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That day, if you would have told me I’d be putting duct tape all over my head a year later, I may not have believed you.

This past year has seen me do a lot of things I didn’t think I would or could do. I’ve been through six months of chemo. I’ve given myself blood thinner injections. Until this past month, I’d never been in the hospital overnight. I have nine radiation tattoos. I’ve shaved my head three times.

That last part brings me to the duct tape. On Saturday and Sunday, I noticed all my hair was falling out at once. I could just reach up and give it a slight pull, and it would easily come out.

I was thinking of just pulling it all out, and I started to do so Sunday morning, but got bored, so we decided to shave the rest off. I’m not sure who reads this, but if all your hair starts falling out after augmented ICE, just pull it out, no matter how long it takes. When I shaved it, I had stubble left. But it hurt. When I put my head on a pillow or touched my head, it felt like tiny needles in my scalp. The places where I’d pulled it out felt nice and smooth.

On Monday, I was desperate. I asked my boyfriend if we had duct tape. At first, he said we didn’t and he added that he thought pulling out my remaining hair with duct tape was a bad idea. He argued that you didn’t know what was on the sticky part of the tape. But since I’m regularly being injected with chemicals that kill all my rapidly-growing cells (including my hair and those is my stomach lining—and hopefully the cancer), the toxicity of duct tape is the least of my worries.

“We do have duct tape, but you’re not using it on your head,” he finally admitted. Killjoy.

I spent lots of time putting masking tape on my head.

I spent lots of time putting masking tape on my head.

I tried packing tape, but that pulled out only part of my hair. And then masking tape, which worked a little better. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to apply masking tape to your whole head and pull it off, it’s as tedious as it sounds. I would never try it, obviously, when your hair wants to be attached to your head. But I just needed to get these remaining hairs. I was obsessed.

After another night of prickly sleep, I begged my boyfriend to look for the duct tape. He really couldn’t find it this time. (Or so he claims.) And then he “forgot” to pick up some at the store. I applied more masking tape to my scalp.

Then, yesterday, I noticed a painful bump on my arm, near where one of the chemo IVs had been. I recognized this as signs of a superficial blood clot, which I’d had on my other arm during the ABVD chemo. I called the doctor and had to go in for an ultrasound and rescheduled a work conference call.

The results were two superficial clots — not serious (but painful) clots in my right arm. Since I am having a leukapheresis catheter put in on Friday, I can’t take blood thinners. (On a good note, this stays in for the remainder of treatment and my arm veins get a nice break. Overall, though, I’m really grossed out by having tubes sticking out of my chest for a few months.)

The doctors told me to apply warm compresses to my arms. I forgot to pick some up, so I’ve been thinking about applying the cats after they’re done sunning themselves or after the big white cat is done absorbing the heat from the space heater.

What I did pick up on my way to the ultrasound, however, was duct tape. (And a Snickers egg. Snickers are my favorite candy bar, but they lose something in egg form. I think the carmel, nougat, nut and chocolate ratio is compromised.)

Free at last!

Free at last!

Upon returning home, I triumphantly applied duct tape to my head (and ate half of my Snickers egg). And — just as I thought — it removed my hair. I am free of stubble and smooth-domed. I’m pretty sure my hair won’t grow back until May or June, so this will be my look for awhile. And, unlike last time, nothing is left of my hair.

During this time of baldness, I’m always kind of at a loss of what to do in the shower. The majority of the time is spent washing my hair and shaving. I could take up singing my bald theme song, but I don’t have a very good voice. I’ll probably just exfoliate.

Despite his reluctance to assist me in applying duct tape to my head, my boyfriend assures me that I’m not funny looking. But I had been reluctant to wear one of my usual sleep T-shirts, and I couldn’t pinpoint why. It has the logo of Cleveland goth band Lestat, with a depiction of Nosferatu. I inherited this T-shirt in high school from a friend’s older sister. Today, when I looked in the mirror while brushing my teeth, I realized that there were two bald people with prominent ears displayed in the reflection. After I emerged from the bathroom, my boyfriend looked at my shirt and then at me and said, “Hey, you kind of look like…”

That guy on my T-shirt looks familiar...

That guy on my T-shirt looks familiar…

“I know,” I said. I’d hoped if I ever looked like a vampire, it would be one of those sexy, preternaturally good-looking Anne Rice characters. I suppose this is what I get for those years of being goth, emulating that vampire look: Nosferatu. Be careful — or very specific — about what you wish for.

Speaking of vampires and blood, my blood pressure’s been very low. I’m not sure why. If I had to venture a non-medical guess, I’d say it’s because I’ve been pretty calm and haven’t been in public much. My blood pressure’s usually a little on the low side, but I wonder if my Frank Costanza-like short fuse raises my blood pressure and keeps it normal. (Serenity now!) I’m not sure what I should to do raise it, other than stew about topics that upset me, like flip flops on the train, Doritos Tacos Locos or that new Kevin Costner movie that looks so bad it makes me angry that Hollywood continually expects us to watch some of the terrible films they keep making.



In the meantime, I haven’t gotten around to applying a cat to my arm. But this evening, my arm clots really hurt. As I whimpered and cried as I tried to extend my arm, one of the cats came over and put her paw over my hand and licked my knuckles. (Aw.)

To his credit, the other cat is not without his own sweet gestures. A few weeks ago, I felt a little overwhelmed by everything and just put my head down, face-first on the bed. I was about to cry when I felt a sandpaper tongue on my head and a paw patting my head. I suppose it’s possible I had crumbs in my then-short hair, but I’d like to think he was comforting me. He may never understand how to get treats out of his toys and he may lack feline grace and fall off the couch a lot, but he’s a sweet cat.

Obviously, this is not where I’d like to be a year from my initial diagnosis. I wish the six months of ABVD had cleared up the cancer. I’d rather not have refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma, The hardest part of treatment still lies ahead, in these coming months. Yet absolute ridiculousness of covering my head with duct tape and looking like Nosferatu is at least keeping me from taking myself too seriously on what could have been a very sad anniversary.

As a former goth girl, Halloween has always been a special time for me. It’s when everyone else finally caught up with what I’d been up to all year.

Of course, I’ve been less goth since my teens and early 20s, but I still enjoy wearing black and listening to Bauhaus and Skinny Puppy, especially in the fall. While some people associate fall with squash and leaf-peeping—a term that I just learned this year and sounds a little lewd for such a wholesome pastime—I break out my goth/industrial favorites around this time. There’s “Release the Bats” by the Birthday Party, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus, “Halloween” by the Misfits (technically punk, but appropriate) and, of course, “Every Day is Halloween” from Ministry.

During my mid- to late-20s, I’d often slipped into a lazy tradition of Josie and the Pussycats, though I spent hours a few years ago sewing timely bed bug costumes. I also dressed up for a few years for my favorite Bikram yoga studio’s annual Hot-a-Ween classes. Since it’s hot yoga, finding a costume that you can sweat and move in for an hour-and-a-half is a challenge, but it’s fun, and people get really creative. In the past, I’ve been Pebbles from The Flintstones (with a leopard-print top and hair bone) and a smartwater bottle, though most people couldn’t tell what I was.

But this Halloween had special meaning to me, since I was bald and no longer confined by my hair. An entirely new look had opened up a host of costume ideas. As, I’d mentioned before, I could be Sinead O’Connor, scolding a host of scantily-clad VMA Miley Cyruses. But I’ve known what I’ve wanted to be since this summer, when I ordered a porkpie hat. I would be Heisenberg, Walter White’s alter-ego on Breaking Bad.

I had my hat, and ordered blue rock candy for my meth and glasses. I bought a green button-up man’s shirt and khaki pants and borrowed my boyfriend’s belt and sunglasses for the full Heisenberg effect. And, of course, I had to buy a beard. I couldn’t find a reddish beard, so I had to settle for a dark one that I cut to mimic Walt’s facial hair.

Like my oyster obsession, though, I’d become a little too focused on the idea of my Halloween costume to the point where I was about to take the fun out of it. We are going to go out and we are going to have fun. I’ve never been into weddings at all and I’m really blasé about most holidays, so I suppose the closest I get to event-freakout moments are around Halloween. At least I get a little scary at the appropriate time of year.

I had a tearful breakdown around the night before Halloween, explaining to my boyfriend why I felt like I was getting a little crazy. I’ve been upbeat about it, but I still lost my hair to chemo. The hair loss really doesn’t bother me very much, and I’ve just been keeping my (bald) head down and marching forward, but sometimes this all catches up to me. I was hell-bent on making the most of my baldness on Halloween.

That day, the main place where I’ve been freelancing was finishing up a big project, and I knew I’d be at their office late. Now, this office is the one place—the only place—I wear my wig. I think most people don’t even notice my hair, since I’m not there very often. Still, I don’t really feel like I should draw attention to myself as the bald cancer lady.

So a lot of the full-time office people dressed up for Halloween, but I didn’t—officially. I was wearing my wig, so I felt disguised. It was weird I was wearing a wig, then taking it off to be in costume.

During lunch break, after purchasing a beard, I decided to get my head re-shaved during lunch break to save on getting-ready time. I popped into the salon closest to the office and approached the woman dressed as a mouse at the front desk. I figured this place would appreciate the Halloween-inspired shave.

Despite the scary nature of the holiday, I didn’t want to alarm anyone by suddenly removing my hair. “I need to get my hair re-shaved,” tugging up a portion of my wig a bit. I got my head shaved, and some nice tingly stuff put on my scalp, donned my wig and returned to work, free of the half-inch of hair that had grown in sporadically.

Since my hair had been coming back a little, I wasn’t sure if I should shave my head for Halloween. But I knew Heisenberg would be a popular Halloween costume, and I knew I had to commit. Would Walter White settle for meth that was only 90 percent pure? No! So I would not be some shoddy Heisenberg. Plus, my hair was growing, but all of it wasn’t growing in yet, and it started to look patchy. (I’m happy to report it’s now all evenly growing in, as is my facial hair—just in time for Movember, though I will probably visit the threading salon.)

At the office, as one thing popped up after the other, I felt my Halloween evening slipping away. When I’d noticed cones going up on the street around lunchtime, I realized that the office was also located along the route of the Halloween parade. If you’ve been stranded on one side of the parade while some of your friends and a party are on the other, it’s no fun; I speak from experience.

So I knew I was racing against the parade clock, as well as my own deadline for getting out of the office in time to go out. By this point, I’d calmed down a little bit and decided that as long as I went out in costume—and took photos, of course—it was going to be OK. I just had to get home and into costume.

I didn’t leave the office until 7:15 or 7:30. I said goodbye to my manager as she walked toward Union Square to catch the train and I walked in the opposite direction to take the F home. Then I realized I was blocked in. I was on the phone with my boyfriend, walking back towards Union Square when I saw my co-worker heading toward me, We realized we were trapped. Sixth Avenue was a loss—even the sidewalks were blocked, so the officer standing guard directed us to another street to walk to the next stop.

I finally got home and changed and walked with my boyfriend, who was dressed as a zombie. And I made sure we took photos, including some with my cats. (As you’ll recall, I’m the sad cat lady who spent an entire evening making Breaking Bad-inspired cat costumes.)


We went to a bar where member of my fitness boot camp were having drinks. I used to work out with them more, but as I’ve been easing back in to working out, I think I should be able to count the hoists of a giant beer mug as reps on Fitocracy for now. (Alas, I’m still not cleared for Bikram yoga, otherwise I would have been tightie-whities Walt for class.) Most people realized I was Walter White, except for someone who thought I was a Hasidic guy, with the hat and beard. I really did look more like a little Jewish man than Heisenberg, especially in a photo my boyfriend took, as we had a late dinner.


I got a few calls from the street! “Hey, Heisenberg!” But perhaps the greatest compliment to my costume was that people thought I was a man. After dinner, we stopped by a place where a friend was putting on a Halloween show and we caught a band dressed as the guys from The Taking of Pelham One Two Three—the 1974 version, not the remake.

As I walked in, I spotted a fellow Heisenberg out of the corner of my eye. I was going to talk to him later, but we didn’t stay long because my zombie companion had to work early the next day. But I overheard my fellow Walter White say to his companions, “That guy did an OK job, with the green shirt.” So from one Heisenberg to another, I consider that high praise.


I still need to write about my Halloween as Heisenberg hijinks and my biopsy surgery that took place on Wednesday. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share some photo goofiness. When I first shaved my head, I decided to take some photos of me as famous bald people. I took two of these photos in August, and then when I recently re-shaved my head, I took the other two.

Sinead O’Connor, probably the most famous bald lady of all time. She actually has a bit more hair than this in her “Nothing Compares 2u” video. If I had to dress up for Halloween before my head was shaved, I was thinking about being Sinead O’Connor. I’d wear a black turtleneck and carry around an open letter to Miley Cyrus, and I’d scold scantily clad girls in Miley costumes from the warm comfort of my turtleneck. I may actually go see Sinead O’Connor on Sunday. People will think I’m a superfan! Sinead

Sigourney Weaver from Alien 3. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Alien, although I get it mixed up with that V TV movie. Anyway, this is me as Sigourney Weaver in that film. I didn’t have any dirt to put on my face, and I was just waiting for my boyfriend to get ready so we could go to the Museum of the Moving Image and not fighting a battle against aliens, so I look less rugged.


Kojak, with a lollipop. I didn’t have a fedora, so I just relied on the raincoat, sunglasses and sucker to carry off this Telly Savalas look. I had gone into the bank to get a Dum Dum and had collected several lollipops, but I ate them. I’m eating one of those ginormous all-day suckers here (grasshopper pie-flavored, if you’re wondering.).


Walter White, my summer cancer anti-hero. I started watching Breaking Bad in July and caught up just in time for the premiere of the final six episodes. I was Walter White for Halloween. My boyfriend says I look like a little Jewish man (with the beard, not all the time, because that would be weird). I wished I could have found a more reddish beard. Alas.

Walter White

Heisenberg, Walter White’s alter-ego. Actually, I was Heisenberg for Halloween, complete with porkpie hat, blue rock candy meth and sunglasses. I plan on writing a whole post on my Halloween, but for now, here are the pics of me as Heisenberg, who is in the empire business.



The other night, I dreamed I had male-pattern baldness. Instead of my usual fuzz that makes my head resemble that of a baby penguin, I had a big bald patch at the crown of my head, like a monk, as well as a receding hairline. I was kind of upset about this development in my dream.

When people have seen me recently, they mistakenly think my hair is growing back. But it’s really the hair that I have left growing in, because the chemo didn’t make all my hair fall out. It just thinned my hair until it looked so weird, I decided to shave it off.

So I’ve been launching into an explanation that ends with: “I’m shaving all my hair off for Halloween and starting fresh.”

I’m going to be Heisenberg, and by November, my hair should finally start growing back. (Provided I don’t need more chemo.) Then I can just start with a clean slate. Or, in my case, a clean, bald head.

Honestly, I will know my hair is growing back when my facial hair returns. When my mustache is once again thick and luxuriant and when my eyebrows require threading every two and a half weeks, it is then that I will know I’m truly on the road to recovery.

I’ve been bald for several weeks now, and I still love it. I’ve put a big glob of shampoo on my hairless head in the shower only twice so far.

Reactions to my new look have been mostly positive. People tell me I can pull the bald thing off. I have big facial features, and it balances out the baldness somehow. They’re strong enough to stand on their own, without a hair frame. Babies seem to like me, and I think it’s for this reason. If someone increased my facial proportions just ever so slightly, I’d look like a cartoon. I’ve never had my caricature done. I’m convinced it would look just like a regular drawing.

I recently thought back to a conversation I had in high school with a friend about my nose. I hated my nose. It’s not exactly that it’s so big, it’s just kind of weird. It’s not like other noses. I mean, I wanted to be weird when I was 15, but weird in a cool way so that counterculture peers would accept me and people who might make fun of me would leave me alone. I don’t think any 15-year-old girl wants to be known for her unique nose.

Anyway, my friend’s wise words that day put me at peace with my nose. She said that my nose fit in with all my other facial features and that if I had a smaller nose, I’d look strange. I realized she was right. I wish I could say from that day forward, I shed all my insecurities and had some epiphany about what makes you unique can make you beautiful, but that didn’t really happen then. No longer hating my nose was an important step forward, though, in a still-ongoing journey of self-acceptance.

Now that I’m bald, this is probably not even the “weirdest” I’ve ever looked. Maybe it’s the most subversive look I’ve had, but not on purpose.

In my mid-teens to early 20s, I was goth. When I lived in Columbus and walked by this sports bar with a giant patio on The Ohio State University campus, I would habitually cringe and wait for insults to fly my way from drunk guys, but in later years, I remembered I wasn’t goth anymore so I wasn’t such an easy target. (Still, really drunk guys will yell for lots of reasons, so groups of them in situations where they can yell at me, safe behind some kind of patio fence, still make me nervous.)

In my 20s, I wore all sorts of crazy outfits. I wasn’t exactly Lady Gaga, but I love fun clothes. Even recently, when I worked in an office (often by myself), I would still sometimes have themes to my weeks: polka dots, black-and-white, cats, gingham.

Now that crisp fall weather has arrived, however, my head has been getting cold. I have my Kangol hat, a purple floppy hat from a friend, a purple cap knitted by another friend and my Heisenberg fedora, of course. And I have plenty of hoodies.

Unless I’m going to an office or a business thing, I don’t usually wear my wig. It’s partially out of the same laziness I’ve always shown toward my hair situation. My wig doesn’t look very realistic either, particularly because I keep fiddling with it—shifting it, touching the back to make sure it’s not puffing out, snapping at its band.

In those situations, I wear the wig for other people. I don’t want to be too distracting by being “the bald lady.” Or the “bald cancer lady” at the office. When I wear my wig, I feel a little bit less like myself, though.

In fact, I went to dinner in my neighborhood the other night after a long day at work and just left my wig on. I didn’t notice until we were almost done eating that there was a bald woman at the table of three next to us, as if we were seated in an invisible bald woman/wig area. I felt like kind of a phony wearing my wig then—I wanted to rip it off and say, “Hey, nice ‘do!”

I think we might be leading parallel, hairless lives, because I think I saw the same person at a concert on Friday. She can pull off being bald and wearing glasses, though. I’m not a huge fan of wearing my glasses, but I mind much less now. Still, I think I look a little like the Beacon’s Closet baby mascot. Oddly, I don’t mind wearing my glasses with my wig. They work together.

As long as I’m talking about wigs and glasses, an aside: Does anyone remember a TV commercial for Focus contact lenses that showed a man and a man in drag out to dinner? (It aired in 1996, so it’s OK if you don’t.) Suddenly the man in drag says, “I have to tell you something!” and he wipes off his lipstick, pulls off his wig and confesses, “I have astigmatism.” Then his date tells him about soft lenses for astigmatism. Not only did I find out I could have disposable lenses, but I loved it for some reason so much that I’ve remembered it for 17 years. So I think about this commercial when I think about pulling off my wig in a public place.

I don’t get many stares. I did get an oddly dirty look on the train that day that left me wondering if I looked like a skinhead. I don’t think so. Dirty looks on the train can be about anything.

I caught someone’s jaw drop once, but she appeared to be from out of town, because she was seated outside having dinner with a bunch of people wearing nametag stickers. She quickly composed herself, but she just didn’t have that looking-without-looking thing that New Yorkers have down, the dead-eyed subway stare—the skill of looking very intently at nothing at all.

Perhaps she wasn’t from out of town, and, like me, she wears all her emotions on her face. Maybe the look wasn’t about me. But for a moment, our eyes met, both of us confused for a second.  My look said,”Huh? Is it because you didn’t expect a bald lady when you looked up from your falafel? Or is it because I look like someone who would steal your falafel from your plate as I walked by?” I was casting an envious glance at her meal, and perhaps it was a protective feeling that made her look up at that moment. Maybe she was opening her mouth to say, “Hey, lady! Get your own food!” But she saw that I was bald and either thought I was too bad to mess with or knew that I was going through chemo and decided to be nice.

If I was worried I’d be the weirdo on the train, I quickly remembered that you have to do a lot to draw attention to yourself. On my way to a housewarming party, a man painted silver got on a few stops later. (What do people painted in silver do? Pretend to be statues? Robots?) But no one looked at him either, except for me.

I think my head sparked a discussion between two teenagers, but it wasn’t really about me. They were trying to come up with the name of the bald singer and one of them finally remembered it was Sinead O’Connor.

On a train ride home, someone stole my thunder by throwing up. I didn’t even notice, until someone warned me to watch out for my shoes, as the motion of the train caused some vomit to roll toward our area. Then, before switching train cars, the stranger and I reminisced about other times we’d seen people vomit on the train. (This was the third time for her in two years and the fourth time for me in five years, though once I was only visiting and it was New Year’s Eve so I’m not sure that incident counts. I have never thrown up on the train, but I’ve fallen asleep on a stranger, who was not at all happy about it. That’s why this is not the City of Brotherly Love, but the City That Never Sleeps, especially not on the shoulder of a public transit stranger.)

When I shaved my head, I had kind of hoped maybe I would get seats on the train. Not necessarily people standing up to offer, but at least I’d get dibs as long as no pregnant women were around. A few years ago at Upright Citizen’s Brigade, I saw comedian Pam Murphy’s one-woman show, “The C Word,” and she has a really funny, true bit where she plays two parts: the cancer patient on the train who hopes for the offer of a seat, and a seated passenger, wondering if she should give up her space.

I realize I fall into a gray area, along with pregnant women who aren’t fully showing yet. I mean, what if she’s not pregnant? In these cases, I sometimes just get up and pretend like my stop is coming up to ease my conscience. I’m also terrible at noticing pregnant women and have stared at someone’s belly for a full minute before I realize I should stand up. I saw one non-showing woman reading a pregnancy book on the train to let people know that yes, she would like to sit.

But I know all bald women don’t necessarily have cancer. And most of the time I’m fine, and I don’t even need to sit. I just like to sit.

I really just need a seat once every two weeks, right after chemo, when I’m tired and in a Benadryl haze. That day was today. I happened to get a seat on the first bus, but today everyone was in a mood. The bus stopped to pick people up and it wasn’t an official stop, so the bus driver wouldn’t let someone off. At least four people who weren’t affected by this were angry. It was just one of those days when everyone’s in a contagious bad mood and no one could break it.

I certainly couldn’t. I was just trying to stay awake and yearning to get home. I should say that today of all days, I guess I looked more like a cancer patient than ever, because I was also wearing a cancer center sweatshirt and my hand was bandaged where they had put the IV in. I was short a hospital gown and a sign, but what can you do?

The next bus was crowded. There was a group of naysayers that you sometimes find at the front of buses and by train doors who loudly assert that there’s no room. Sometimes they’re right, but often, they’re not. I tried to go past them, but got caught in a crush, and someone was yelling at my boyfriend because he was too close to her. “Let’s just leave!” I said, defeated and medicated. We finally got to the space that was behind the group, the space that they told us wasn’t there.

I was still tired and a little cranky that I had to hold on the strap with my numb, bandaged chemo hand, but my other arm hurts from blood clots (that’s another blog). Mostly I was sad—I didn’t want a seat. I just wanted people to be nicer to me, even if it’s because I’m sick.

And people are often nicer, or nice in general. It’s not always the way you think it will be. Good things happen, even on public transit. A stranger will warn you of a stream of bodily fluids heading toward your velvet flats. A comedian I recently saw said a bus driver stopped the bus and wouldn’t move again until someone gave up a seat for a really old woman. (The story was way funnier than that; I’m paraphrasing.)

Some people go beyond nice: someone I ran into this week had gone to the beach the day before and had risked his life to save a stranger who walked into the ocean and tried to commit suicide. He said that hardly anyone was there on a weekday, and he was initially annoyed that a guy had set up his beach towel pretty close to his own, but it turned out to be fortuitous, because this man also helped to save the woman. So things that might seem unfortunate sometimes turn out to be lucky. (Sometimes they’re just irritating. I don’t think the person I fell asleep on gained any good fortune from it.)

I know I’m lucky to have such good support and so many kind words from everyone. I realize it’s selfish in a way to hope to temporarily work my way into the train hierarchy of people who get seats first.

I was just looking for perks, something few and far between when it comes to cancer. Being bald, however, has quite a few benefits. Fast showers. A blank canvas on which to put temporary Cleveland Browns tattoos for football season. My impending Walter White Halloween costume. For now, I can content myself with these perks.


Being bald is pretty great. I’ve always wondered why one of my friends, who ordinarily would have a full head of hair, has shaved his head since college. (Though there have been a few periods where he’s had hair in that time.) But now I see the appeal.

Sometimes, I forget that I’m bald and I startle myself when I walk past a mirror. My boyfriend envisions me calling the police. “Hello? There’s a weird bald lady in my house! But I can’t find her!”

I just did yoga, and I didn’t have a ponytail in my way. My head is nice and cool—though unprotected from the sun. In fact, I have a barely noticeable tan stripe on my head from where the part in my hair was located. It’s like I’m Pepé Le Pew or wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet. (Like most of the Browns, sadly, I’m also not very good at football.)

As I mentioned, I’m not someone who cries over haircuts. When I donated my long hair earlier this year, the stylists seemed concerned and checked on me after they took off about 9 or 10 inches. (I knew then about my diagnosis and that I had more hair to lose in the coming months.)

This Sunday, as my boyfriend sheared off my hair, he asked me several times if I was OK. He also gave me a glass of whiskey.

If there’s a time for having your allotted occasional alcoholic beverage during chemo, I suggest you have it while your head is being shaved. And I recommend whiskey. It’s immediate and makes you feel warm inside.

But once my head was shaved, I realized I liked it. It’s not even the worst haircut I’ve ever had. That was probably when my mom decided to cut my hair into a short bob and perm my hair when I was in sixth grade. The result was a hairdo that someone said looked like a spaceship. A fuzzy flying saucer.

That was just the beginnings of my tress troubles. In the early 1990s, when I was in eighth grade, my hair was full of split ends, so I went to someone my mom worked with at the time, a girl who also cut hair. This girl’s hair was curled and teased on top into a heavy metal dome—a little bit like the blonde in this picture, but with a slight spiral perm to it. It was structurally magnificent, but not the look I was going for. I wanted long, beautiful completely straight hair—like Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, as long as I’m on the subject of metal hair.

Anyway, she layered my hair—a lot—to get the split ends out. And since I didn’t have enough L.A. Looks to make my hair big, I had hair like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes in the “Hard to Handle” video. (My teenage life centered around music videos and references.) Watching the video now, his hair looks fine. But it was not OK for 13-year-old me.

I silently and constantly fretted about my hair, as only a young teenage girl can, and waited. (Like broken hearts, there’s often not much you can do for a bad haircut, except let time heal.) Once it grew out a little, I could finally spray my bangs into a big, stiff wave, keeping the lower bangs loose over my forehead. You were supposed to use a curling iron to curl the top bangs back to create this tube of hair that curled backwards, then spray it up in place. I was too lazy to use a curling iron and make it look like this, so I kind of fashioned my own side wave and sprayed it into place.

After that, I made pretty wise decisions regarding my hair. Well, for the most part. I wanted to Manic Panic my hair a crazy color, but it’s dark brown, so nothing would show up and I was too scared to bleach it. By my junior year, I had moved on from my hair metal phase. (So had the rest of the world, post-Nirvana.) After a summer of painting all my furniture black, listening to the Cure and Nine Inch Nails and buying a pair of combat boots, I had become goth.

I tried dyeing my hair black with a temporary dye, but it wasn’t black enough. (Surely not as dark as my angst!) So I used permanent dye. Over and over again. And then I didn’t want black hair anymore by that spring. But permanent dye is pretty permanent, as it turns out. The salon tried to bleach it out but it worked only at the top near the roots—not the parts that had been dyed black so many times. Until the middle of my freshman year of college, I had an orange band of the bleached part slowly growing out through my hair.

Once that finally grew out, I dyed it black again during my sophomore year of college. (What’s that definition of crazy again? Doing the same thing and expecting different results?) This time, when I wanted to go back to brown, a stylist bleached chunks of my hair to make it look more like my natural color, and this worked much better.

I sometimes dyed my hair that reddish late ’90s color. In my early twenties, I dyed it bright red and purple, but it was temporary dye that lasted only a few weeks and it didn’t show up much on my dark hair. No one seemed to notice much, except for my boss. When she walked into my cubicle, she said, “Oh. You dyed your hair.” To which I replied, “Yes, it’s Pimpin’ Purple.” (A reply that now makes me cringe and laugh. Oh, to be 21 again.)

The following year, apparently no wiser, I got gum in my hair. Not at the tips where it might make sense that a grown woman with no kids would find gum. It was at the top of my head, near my hairline. I chewed gum all the time, and sometimes, I would take it out of my mouth and just put it somewhere before falling asleep. (On my nightstand, for example.) I’m still not sure how it ended up in my hair, but it seems inevitable now. I cut it out, and just kept a hair clip in place to hold that piece down—otherwise it would stick straight up. Like that orange band in my hair, the clip moved as my hair grew.

Since my sophomore year of high school, though, my hair has pretty much been the same: Long and brown. I briefly experimented with bangs in my late twenties and that was a terrible mistake, looking back at old photos.

Until my recent hair donation, I was a huge fan of long hair, and I never wanted short hair. (Certainly not this short.) But I got a lot of compliments on my chic bob. I said thank you and I liked the bob, but vowed to return to long hair soon.

Now, I’m thinking that maybe I wasn’t into short hair because I hadn’t gone short enough. Reflecting on my hair past, I’m not sure if I should have long hair—or hair at all. I don’t use fancy shampoos or gels or sprays. I rarely used a blow dryer. It took too long, especially on my thick hair.

When I did get compliments that my hair looked nice, here’s my secret: I had brushed it that day. I sometimes didn’t bother. (If you’d seen my childhood dolls, you’d see the pattern started early.)

Often, when I found a troublesome knot or tangle, I’d just cut it out, not having to answer to anyone about it until a stylist asked me why a chunk of my hair was missing. I always felt a little sorry for my stylists, when they asked me my hair regimen. “I wash it and I sometimes brush it.”

Now that I’ve been bald, there’s no telling what I’ll do once my hair grows back and it gives me trouble. I know where the clippers are, and I’m finally free of my hair—or maybe it’s finally free of me.

Last month, I optimistically returned the wig I’d ordered from the American Cancer Society’s TLC catalog. Everyone seemed to think I’d be able to keep a good portion of my hair.

But within the past week, my head has been shedding like a tree in autumn. Big parts of my scalp are visible. I can’t look in the mirror without thinking of Donald Trump.

It’s not even the hair loss that bothers me so much as the fact that I paid $10 to ship my wig back, and now I have to wait again for it to arrive. My cheapness is helping to distract me from the real issue, which is that very soon, it will be time to shave my head.

Part of me wants to dramatically storm into a salon and grab clippers and shave my head like Britney Spears, circa 2007, or like Amanda Bynes…now (sigh). But, thankfully, I am not a troubled starlet. Yet the temptation is great to re-stage the famous tabloid photos.

As I wait for my wig to arrive, I might go ahead and purchase one in the interim from a wig shop. My insurance doesn’t cover a hair prosthesis, so these won’t be the fancy wigs, but they will be an improvement compared to the only wig I currently own, a purple asymmetrical bob from Ricky’s. I will probably forgo wearing wigs entirely, except for professional situations.

I’ve been wondering why I’ve been so reluctant to tell people I have cancer. Part of it is that it’s competitive enough to find a job without adding a disease to the mix. I have a link to this blog on my portfolio website, so I’m not hiding anything. And I’m well enough to work. But like a wounded animal in the wild, I feel as if I can’t show any weakness. I guess living in New York City for awhile can make you feel that way.

But then I wonder: Is this a weakness or is it a strength? Perhaps I just need a change in perspective.

This hair loss, in a way, is somewhat of relief. I have cancer, but I’ve been pretending that I don’t. I feel good, but I feel pressured not to make people worry, assure them I’m OK. And being bald seems like a big physical announcement: I have cancer. It forces me to admit that I’m going through something and though I’m doing well, it’s a big, difficult and complex experience.

With my hair so wispy and thin, I’m eager to shave my head, as I await my wig and stand. The idea of putting my hair on a faux head has fascinated me since I was about four or five, and we took a trip with my great aunt. (Technically, she was my grandfather’s cousin.) One of the things that impressed me most about the trip was that my mom and I shared a room with my aunt, who wore a wig. My mom told me this with explicit instructions not to stare and was very adamant about this, so I remember sneaking furtive glances at what I had previously believed to be my aunt’s hair sitting on the hotel dresser, on a stand.

My widowed aunt didn’t like children, something that was also imparted to me at some point. I loved visiting her because she had two cats, and I’ve always loved cats. I was pretty well-behaved and I spent most of my time around adults, plus I was pretty shy, so I think she liked me well enough. Until around the time I was eight and we were having breakfast before a family wedding. For some reason, I was playing with my glass of milk. I had something either that I was putting around it—a bracelet?—or maybe I was making a small toy dance around it. My mom told me to stop it, and I didn’t. And that’s when I knocked over the entire glass of milk into my aunt’s lap.

I knew that this was the very worst thing that could happen—that she, of all people, was the worst possible person to have been in the milk’s trajectory. This is why she doesn’t like children, I thought. And I saw her point. I knew I had confirmed her worst beliefs.

I think my interactions with this aunt were so burned into my memory because I sensed my family’s constant nervousness that i would upset her. And then the worst happened—I was a child goofing off and I doused her with milk while she was dressed for a wedding. But I think there was also a relief—our fears were confirmed, now what?

It’s like that, for me, with cancer too. While it’s far from the worst type of cancer, it’s still cancer, generally agreed to be one of the worst things. So, I have cancer. Now what? I get through it and move on and hopefully emerge stronger. We often live in fear of something bad happening, a series of “what ifs.”

Even though I try to stay calm and live in the moment, while looking for work and dealing with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I have become a full-time worrier. My boyfriend continually reminds me to not worry about things that haven’t happened yet.  It’s a twist on the quote: “Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want.” These words that resonated with me so much when things were good are harder to remember when life gets a bit tougher.

I don’t know if my aunt ever forgave me for that long-ago breakfast transgression. I don’t think so. I will take her horrified look as milk pooled into her lap with me to the grave. She passed away years ago, and I hope she knows that I was sorry—and I hope she never caught me staring at her wig.

Right now, I have two cats and a wig stand of my own. People think I don’t like children, but that’s a misunderstanding. I never really hung out with other kids much outside of school and I was an introvert, so my interactions with children are an extension of a lifelong social awkwardness that started in kindergarten. I hope I don’t inspire that same apologetic feeling that my family felt around my aunt. Kids are allowed to spill milk on me and even ask about my wig. I will respond with a rendition of this song from the B-52s.