Isabelle and Her Dollies’ Hair

Isabelle and Her Dollies’ Hair

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

Isabelle and Her Dollies’ Hair

Each day comes bearing its own gifts. Untie the ribbons.

Ruth Ann Schabacker

When the oncologist outlined my treatment following two breast-cancer surgeries, I was most fearful of the chemotherapy and the promise I would lose my hair. I’d bought two fashionable wigs (which I never wore) and asked my hair stylist if she would cutmy hair very short. In spite of all my preparations, I was in complete denial of the inevitable and hoped somehow it wouldn’t happen to me.

I was told I would have sixteen weeks of chemotherapy (eight weeks of Cytoxan and Adriamycin and eight weeks of Taxol), to be followed by six weeks of daily radiation. Sixteen days after my first chemotherapy, my hair began to come out in huge clumps. True reality set in; not only was I feeling physically unwell, but with hair loss I plunged into emotional despair.

My husband sweetly offered to clip the few remaining strands that clung to my scalp, but a friend frankly told me to deal with reality and have all that remained cut off, which my husband did. I was now totally bald—and it was just as tough an assignment for him as for me.

I was determined to get this stage of my treatment over with as quickly as sixteen weeks could go, and I resolved to stay as healthy as possible. I followed all the directives and avoided crowds, ate as well as I could—even though my appetite was practically nonexistent—but the worst part was not seeing my grandchildren because I feared I might catch a cold or the flu.

My friends knew this was a very difficult time because I truly love all four grandchildren and so enjoy their company, but staying healthy and infection-free was a great incentive because I longed for their sweet faces and amazing wisdom.

Chemo treatments ended on schedule, without interruption, and I looked forward to my first celebration with family, friends and four grandchildren at Thanksgiving. Even though I wasn’t feeling well and was still very bald, I wore a hat and cautiously prepared to see my family, some of whom had not seen the “new” me, who had lost twenty-five pounds (not counting the missing hair). I was anxious about how my grandchildren, ages three to six, would feel . . . and I didn’t want to scare them.

Thanksgiving was perfect in every way. How grateful I was to be back with my marvelous family and part of a social circle again! The children were all far less concerned by my appearance than I was; they were curious and innocently intrigued by my bald head. Grace, age four, simply proclaimed that I should have put my “old hair” under my pillow, and with true Tooth Fairy magic, my new hair would reappear the next day. The children cautiously touched my head, and I just assumed their simple behavior was a very accepting way to deal with my unusual appearance.

When one of my walking friends asked me the next week how everything had gone, I was happy to report, “The day was uneventful, and I felt completely at ease, not really aware that any of the children were affected by my appearance.”

It wasn’t until six weeks later, when I had a head of soft down, that my daughter Sara presented me with a photograph and told me what Isabelle, my three-year-old granddaughter, had done. Isabelle had secretively kept to herself in her room and was unusually quiet for a surprising amount of time. Sara, an exceptionally patient mother, entered her daughter’s room to discover the child cutting off her doll’s hair! Surprised by Isabelle’s actions, Sara discovered that over a period of three days, Isabelle had trimmed the hair of each of her three dolls, including Ariel, the red-headed Disney mermaid. Calmly, she asked Isabelle what she was doing.

Very matter-of-factly, Isabelle said, “I needed to have them be just like Mew-Mew,” the name she calls me.

Paula Young

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