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Hollye Harrington Jacobs Headshot

Lose Your Hair From Chemo, Get Scarf Stares

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I've come to accept my bald head. While I'm don't exactly feel like "Bald is Beautiful" on me, I feel like "Bald ain't so bad."

Every time something is taken away from me (my breasts, my hair, my dignity), I am more grateful for what I still do have, like a positive attitude. That is something that can never be taken away from me (Silver Lining!).

Even though I have a wig that is made out of real hair, feels lightweight and fairly attractive, it is still uncomfortable and itchy. I find that I really only want to wear it for short periods of time (like when I take my daughter to school or when I go out on the rare evening). Scarves are simply much more comfortable.

I have invested in some really chic cotton ones that tie easily, don't slip and are very lightweight (Silver Lining). After playing around with them and finding my "look," I was feeling pretty good.

What have unexpectedly descended are "The Scarf Stares." Whoa. They came out of nowhere and, I've found, are a significant part of the oncology culture.

The first time I felt the impact of being a direct recipient of The Scarf Stares, I was feeling pretty put together in my Hermes scarf, sparkly earrings and coordinating outfit.

I had to go get my blood drawn before my chemotherapy infusion. While in the waiting room, a woman (who had to be in her mid-60′s) was sitting across from me, staring. Blatantly staring. Right at me. She made absolutely no attempt to divert her stare. Finally, it was so outrageously rude that I just had to call her out.

"Can I help you with something, ma'am?" I asked.
She looked horrified. "N-n-n-no," she said.
"Why are you staring at me, then?"
"I don't know," she said.
"Well, if you want to talk about something, please do let me know," I said.

I felt as if she really should have known better. However, I'm now all-too-aware that most people don't, in fact, know better.

I was in the chemo clinic the other day getting fluids (one of the five days last week that I received IV hydration because of my rampant nausea and vomiting) and a young woman came in with her mother. I overheard the thirty-something say that she was there for her Neulesta shot. Another young woman with cancer. F-bomb.

She had a full head of hair, leading me to believe that she had just had her first round of chemo (I hope it went better for her than it did for me!).

I was sitting in my treatment chair and when I looked up, both mother and daughter were staring right at me. I smiled. I understood why they were staring. This was so unlike the previous situation. In this circumstance, I had complete empathy, knowing that they were staring because the young woman knew that she would soon be in the same situation (i.e. bald). I really wanted to get up and go over to her and say, "It will be ok. It's not so bad. You can do this."

I was unable to do so because I was tethered to my IV. However, I hope that my smile conveyed what I was feeling.

I've come to acknowledge the fact that there will simply be a whole lot of staring for the next few months. Most of the time, the stares are filled with sympathy. They really don't make me feel any better, but I know it's not about me. Seeing me may remind them of a friend or loved one with cancer. Seeing me may just make them sad that there is so much cancer in the world. I don't really know. I just keep my head high and go on about my day.

However, when someone is overtly staring for a prolonged period of time, I always ask if I can help with something, which usually elicits a "caught in the cookie jar" reaction. Oops!

Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left.

~Hubert Humphrey

To read more about Hollye's holistic and humorous journey over, around, above and below breast cancer, please visit her blog, Brookside Buzz ( You may email her at

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