Yesterday I read a moving bio on Facebook titled “It’s Just Hair” by Clare Bowen. Reading it reminded me of a young man I lived with one summer, while working at a camp. He had been diagnosed the previous year with Leukaemia and had just finished treatment prior to summer’s start. He was ‘cancer free’, yet in all other aspects he was by no means ‘free’. Prior to his diagnosis he was an always relaxed, care-free high school graduate with brown hair and a love for the outdoors. Post diagnosis he resembled a ghost of himself, he had lost all his hair and his skin was white with a bluish ting and dark circles around his eyes. He was afraid to leave his bedroom in constant fear that something would happen to him. No longer was he a care-free high school graduate, but a post-cancer survivor with the looming fear that his cancer status would change.
At summers end we parted ways and I never saw him again. Occasionally I see his picture appear on Facebook, a young man with brown hair. Is he the same again? Superficially, yes, His hair grew back. Otherwise? Unlikely. After what he went through and the small piece I witnessed, I guarantee he is going down a lengthly path of ‘stitching himself back together’. Fixing himself will take a lot longer then fixing his hair.
“Wanna know why I cut it all off?
When I was four years old, I asked my mother; “Are there heaters in Heaven?”
I had just been diagnosed with end stage nephroblastoma, after several visits to a GP who denied anything was wrong and dubbed my parents “paranoid.” I’d overheard the doctors telling my family that the only hope of saving me, was an experimental treatment that might kill me anyway. But without it I had maybe two weeks left. The hospital was cold. I’d never felt air conditioning before.
Life in the White Palace (Granddad’s nickname for hospital) meant I got to grow up surrounded by children just like me. We were mostly bald, all tubed, taped, bandaged up and stitched back together. We were all missing parts, some obvious like eyes or legs, others more hidden, like lungs and kidneys. Those who still could, tip-toed around like little fairies because chemotherapy had destroyed the muscles in our legs and it hurt to put our heels on the floor. But we were all together, so no one’s appearance came into question. No one got laughed at or teased. We were all we knew.
And then I got really lucky. I survived, my hair grew back and I got strong again. I look relatively normal on the outside, but on the inside, I am still the same stitched back together little creature, in a world where people are judged so harshly for the way they look. It has always been completely incomprehensible to me. How can people think there’s time for that?
I was really inspired when I heard a story about a little girl who said she couldn’t be a princess because she didn’t have long hair, and I wanted her, and others like her to know that’s not what makes a princess, or a warrior, or a superhero. It’s not what makes you beautiful either. It’s your insides that count… even if you happen to be missing half of them.
Every scar tells a story, every baldhead, every dark circle, every prosthetic limb, and every reflection in a mirror that you might not recognize anymore. Look deeper than skin, hair, nails, and lips. You are who you are in your bones. That is where you have the potential to shine the brightest from. It is where your true beautiful self lives.
Thank you ABC network and particularly our creator, Callie Khouri for letting me change Scarlett’s hair, and my team, family and friends for helping me make the decision. If it makes even one person think twice about judging another, then in some small way, the world is better.
Self-esteem takes a lot longer to grow back than hair.”
Photo credit – Joseph Llanes Photography”
By: Clare Bowen