Close your eyes for a second and think of cancer. What image pops into your mind?
I can almost guarantee it's a bald head. That seems to be the near-instant connection most people make when they hear about a cancer diagnosis.
It was mine, too. And now I'm experiencing it firsthand.
When I had my first craniotomy in January, my surgeon wisely recognized the importance of hair to a then 22-year-old single woman. So he shaved a line where his incision would be -- picture a headband from ear to ear.
That was my first scar along this journey and first experience with hair loss. I'd hide it by putting my long, dark brown hair in a ponytail and wearing funky headbands -- pretending I was perpetually on my way back from the gym.
It took about five months to grow back -- just in time for my second craniotomy. It was then that I contemplated shaving my head, knowing that just a few weeks later I would begin radiation and chemo. At the last minute I chickened out and asked my surgeon to re-shave the same incision line. Total baldness seemed too drastic and made it too real.
Once I began my 6.5-week course of therapy, it took until about week three to start noticing visible hair loss. I had never been so aware of the stark contrast between my almost-black hair and the blindingly white tile in my bathroom. But I kept on going, progressed to ever-wider headbands and then beanies. Good thing hats are trendy right now.
It wasn't until two days ago that I woke up and decided that the rest had to go. And go it did. In a few strokes, I went from "St. Elmo's Fire" Demi to "G.I. Jane" Demi.
Know what? All the expectations I had about shaving my head were nonexistent. I thought I'd be sad, but when I woke up that morning it just felt right. Sometimes it pays to follow your instincts. If I'd rushed to shave earlier in my diagnosis, this would have been a completely different blog, titled "What The F*ck Did I Just Do?!"
If you've been following this blog, you know that I'm a fan of pushing yourself just a little farther each day and doing something that scares you. But there are times when you have to nurture your soul and listen to what it's telling you, too.
When it is -- or isn't -- the right time to jump, you'll know. But you have to be willing to listen. Making decisions can be difficult, but if you tap into your spirit and trust your instincts you'll almost always land on your feet (or bald head if you're lucky).