July 5th, 2017
| Survivor: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
When my doctor told me I'd need chemotherapy, the first thing I asked was if I'd lose my hair. Even though it was my third time facing cancer, "hair" to me meant the hair on my head. Losing my hair was never easy, but knowing what to expect at least made it less scary. This time, I decided to own my hair loss and use it as a chance to help others by donating my hair to a charity called Free Wigs for Kids - before the chemo could take it from me.
Yet every time I went through chemo, I forgot that you don't just lose the hair on your head. You lose hair you might not have thought much about until it was gone. Your nose starts dripping because it no longer has tiny hairs to protect it from germs. You lose hair in your ears, on your arms, and legs. Your eyebrows become whispers of what they once were.
And your eyelashes. Oh, your eyelashes.
My eyelashes were always the toughest to part with. The hair on my head might never have been thick and luscious, but my eyelashes made up for it. I could walk out the door without makeup, but I always had on my mascara. When my hair started to come out, I clung to every last lash. I diligently and delicately applied my mascara until there were only three left. When even they were gone, I used eyeliner, but it wasn't the same.
Part of the frustration was it was the one thing I couldn't "fix." I was happy enough with my wig, I could create the illusion of eyebrows with brow pencils, but without my lashes, it was hard to feel completely like myself. I called up shops that specialized in eyelash extensions, but I had no eyelashes to pin them to. Full false eyelashes were not recommended because of eye sensitivity. Aside from aesthetics, I hadn't realized how much my lashes protected me. I found myself blinking away dust particles with every strong gust of wind.
Of course, this could have been all in my head. I'd look at my naked eyes in pictures, thinking how different I looked, but my friends said they didn't notice until I pointed it out.
Once treatment ended and a few weeks had passed, I looked for my lashes every day until the day I saw the tiniest of little black buds forming. I kept waiting for those buds to grow, and weeks later, it almost seemed like they came in overnight. And it was glorious.
Facing my mortality multiple times (I also survived a heart attack and heart transplant, aside from three bouts of cancer) has made me more conscious about not taking things in life for granted. But losing my lashes has made me realize that this applies to the littlest things too. It will be another year or so before my hair is long again, but give me my mascara and I'm willing to wait.
Did you have an unexpected emotional attachment to your eyelashes, too? Share your hairloss experience in the comments below.
Photo courtesy of the author.
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