Gosh, I just realized I never actually wrote (except a brief Facebook post) about Clio’s hair / lack thereof.
Nurses and doctors (and we!) have been amazed all along that Clio wasn’t losing more of her hair, more quickly. It was thinning for sure, but until recently she had enough that we could manage a decent comb-over, and plenty in the back. It didn’t seem necessary to cut it all off.
But over the past few weeks — a couple of weeks after her second dose of Doxorubicin — it started thinning a lot faster, to the point where if I ran my fingers through it I’d pull out a clump of a dozen or so hairs. And one morning I caught a glimpse of her from afar, looking rather like an adorable little Gallagher, and thought: it’s time.
She’d always said that she wanted to at some point. In fact, over the summer when her hair first started thinning, she was ready, but I resisted. “Let’s wait a little while,” I said. “You still have a lot of hair left.”
This time, when I suggested we should go get it shaved, she was more than ready to go. That very day, I called my regular, long-time hairdresser, because he knew about Clio’s illness, and asked if he’d do it, but his schedule was completely booked. “Maybe we’ll wait for a few days when he’s free,” I said.
But no. She wanted to do it now. So we went to another little salon I’d taken the girls to before, that does cheap kids’ cuts, and the woman who owned the place said she was glad to do it. Didn’t charge us a cent. Was very kind about it. Her sister, she told us, was getting treated for ovarian cancer. She understood what we were going through.
(On another note: I think we might have traumatized the other two little girls and their mom who were also in the salon getting their hair cut at the same time!!)
I thought I would cry, or at least feel somewhat upset, seeing the transformation — to see her suddenly look so different, and to have this visceral, outward, constant reminder of her illness.
But to my surprise it wasn’t that bad. I felt a twinge, but I didn’t actually tear up as the hair slipped away from under the buzzer and onto the ground. I think in part because Clio was so calm, so brave through the whole thing. Watching herself in the mirror with fascination. Smiling when she hopped down from the chair.
And it’s funny — she doesn’t look as different as I thought she would. She looks sort of like she did as a baby. She looks cute as a button, and still very Clio. (And I must admit, I really enjoy running my hand over the little bit of fuzz still left on her head.)
She’s handling the whole thing beautifully. She expressed some fear that kids would laugh at her. And the first week or so, when she was in situations with friends who hadn’t seen her without hair yet, she’d be a little reserved at first, and wear a hat. (Her bear hat, above, is her favorite lately.) But usually the hat would come off within a few minutes.
And it seems like — so far, blessedly — most kids aren’t really fazed by it. They stare a little at first, but then they get over it and kind of forget all about it. There’s been no teasing or laughing. Not yet.
And the girls both know that if anyone asks, they will explain why she doesn’t have hair.
“And then if they still laugh,” Elsa has said more than once, “I’ll say ‘You blockhead, she has leukemia!” (This is a quote from a Peanuts video about leukemia they watched over the summer. Tee hee.)
What I found sort of fascinating was the first time we were really out in public — a restaurant specifically — with the buzzcut. All the glances from other adults in the place. I could see and feel them noticing, then registering, and I couldn’t help imagining what they might be thinking. Poor kid, or how sad, or how awful, or how brave. Who knows?
As I was walking through the restaurant with Clio to the restroom at one point, surrounded by sad and thoughtful faces, I wanted to tell people, “She’s OK! Really! She’s going to be OK!” At least, there’s a 90% chance she will.
And in my necessarily self-deluding mind — because this is how you have to think to get through it — a 100% chance. I fully expect her and Elsa to be teenagers fighting over the hair dryer in the bathroom someday. I look forward to it.
In the meantime, I’m just so proud of Clio (hell, all of us!) for weathering this latest change with grace and courage.
Oh, and as you can see, the mister decided to take off the majority of his hair in solidarity. He looks pretty cute too.