I have lymphoma. I also am a girl in my early twenties, and all my life my long dark hair has been my most identifying feature. I have been distraught at the prospect of losing my hair (more so than actually having cancer), since my hair has always been very very long and thick. As most girls do I’ve struggled with hating my appearance, and my hair was something that was always easy to maintain and love, and often the only thing I ever liked about myself. It was so easy to hide behind, and became my security blanket. So what if I felt or looked awful, my hair was beautiful and people would notice that before they noticed my perceived flaws.
Anyway. I had my hair cut to about shoulder length, but it was matting into dreadlocks and falling out on massive clumps. I went to the local barbers and asked for a haircut. The first few places turned me down as ‘they only cut mens hair’. Yeah but I want a ‘mens’ haircut? I felt pretty flustered at this point, but managed to find a third barber shop.
The shop was empty except for one other barber and a customer in the chair. The free barber asked why I wanted to cut my ‘beautiful hair’, and I awkwardly stammered out that I had cancer and pointed to the bald patches that were forming. He was very kind and helped recommend lengths that would best hide the bald patches and asked me about my treatment and how I found out I was ill, and I told him.
The other customer was paying and he said he would like to pay for my haircut, as he couldn’t help over hearing my conversation with the barber, and he hoped I got better soon. He said his daughter was around my age and also had long hair which she loved. It was so unexpected and generous it moved me to tears, I was so surprised and grateful. The barbers also recommended some pomade to help style my short hair and refused payment for the pomade, and told me to come back if I needed another cut. I left and cried in my car for about ten minutes. I’ve been struggling a lot with the whole cancer thing, and the generosity and kindness of these strangers really touched me and made me feel seen and valued.