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Monday, November 5, 2007


I love the musical HAIR. When I was a teenager, it was one of my favorites. Good music, teenage rebellion, social justice and HAIR. (and I am an Aquarius)

From the time I was 13, until 23, I had hair down to my.... well, all the way down my back. (is there any gracious way to say "tush"?) It was long and thick and red and beautiful.

But thinning hair is genetic and I knew that my great Aunt Madeline (z"l) was right, that I needed to cut my hair if I didn't want it to thin away.

As long as I could remember, I was "the girl with the long, red, hair."

Cutting it would be like changing who I am. I couldn't do it.

Until I made Aliyah, and no one really knew me here anyway. So I cut it all off. BOOM. Just like that. I even forgot to save it. (you know, for some day when I might want to make a wig out of it... who knew?)

Since then, a few times a year, I cut my hair, reluctantly, ever aware that if I don't, I will lose it.

So, in the face of cancer and chemo, it was the thought of losing my hair that made me cry.

But then, I got lucky. The chemo I get doesn't usually make one's hair fall out.

So, when my hair was still there, after a month of chemo, it became a symbol of how "healthy" I looked. After all, I still had my hair. I was doing fine.

Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed quite a bit of hair in my comb. Maybe it was my imagination? Then, it happened again. Still, I could be over-reacting.

Then, one evening, my hair kept knotting, so I kept combing, and the hair kept coming out. It was like I stepped into a horror film. There was hair everywhere. I cried.

But, a week later, I could relate the story without crying.

I still have most of my hair. The loss is not yet noticable to anyone else.

Still, I'm scared of what's to come.

So, I asked my oncologist about it. And he couldn't tell me what to expect. Maybe that would be it. Maybe more would come out. Maybe now. Maybe later. Maybe never. No way to know.

It makes me cry.

"You are an interesting woman", says my doctor.

"How so?" I ask.

"You're like a 'bull' ...powerful, determined, stubborn, teaching swimming.... "

....and yet I cry, because I don't want to lose my hair.

I know it's a small price to pay. But I don't want to pay that price. I don't want to lose my hair.

I don't want to watch it fall out, bit by bit, over time.

I love my hair.

It's like the song goes:

Gimme a head with hair
Long, beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer (hair)
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair
Grow it, show it
Long as I can grow it
My hair

My neshamah (spirit) will always have long, thick, red hair.

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Anonymous said...

When you enter a room, your presence can be felt, and never in a negative way. I've always admired you for that.

robolion said...

No matter what, you will always be a "JinJit"

Anonymous said...

its funny bc alot of us go through a sort of mourning and loss of self when we cover our hair. im not comparing per se covering your hair with losing it, rather the idendity crisis that might be similiar. praying for you and sending happy healing thoughts faith

RivkA with a capital A said...

What is a JinJit??


I can understand why one might see a similarity, but it's so very different. Covering one's hair is a choice we make. Losing one's hair is not our choice.

Our loss of hair is like the physical manifestation of our loss of control.

Identity issues and emotional issues are all mixed up with health issues. There is no way to separate them.

The topic of covering one's hair, and the identity issues that correspond to that decision, is a fascinating topic.

But it is part of another world.

You might think that since I cover my hair anyway, it won't be so "bad". Especially since the loss might not be as "noticable" to the outside world.

Perhaps in some way it is easier. I don't know yet, since I still have most of my hair. But it still is very difficult.


I've created a new game, similar to the baseball cap game.

Moshe and I made up the baseball cap game on our honeymoon in Disneyworld:
Guess which men at Disneyworld are wearing baseball caps because:
A. they are baseball fans
B. the sun bothers their eyes
C. they are religious Jews who are embarrassed to just wear a kippah.

The Scarf/Wig Game:
Guess which women are wearing a scarf/ wig because:
A. of the chemo
B. of religious conviction.

The Scarf/Wig game is not as fun as the Baseball Cap game.

Let's face it, Disneyworld is way more fun that the chemo ward.

Anonymous said...

When I was 22 years old I lost my hair due to chemotherapy. That side effect was more devastating to me than the fatigue, and vomiting. When it started getting knotty, I realized that that was dead hair, and a few days later I was able to pull my hair out. It was morbidly fascinating to me to be able to do that. I pulled it all out that night, because I wanted to get it over with. (Please understand that with the treatment I was getting there was not doubt of losing my hair, I know many women, especially over the last few years who did not suffer this side effect.) It's not silly or vain to mourn this loss. It is symbolic of everything you are going through.

I'm so glad you are keeping this blog to express all of this. I know you think it helps you, but really you are helping all of us!

PS B"H, BAH my chemo was over 20 years ago--G-d always hears our prayers!