The Side Effects Series: Falling Out

"Look mommy! Look at my golden hair!" -me at age two, obnoxiously calling attention from my newborn sister in a home video.

Even then I knew: my hair was my greatest asset.

I've always liked my hair. It's always been the best part of me. I can braid it, curl it, sweep it back, flirt with it, deflect sunburn with it, ward of boredom with it. I've never dyed it, but have had natural golden honey highlights streaking through molasses thick strands, taught and strong as thread. Whatever has happened with my body (weight gain, weight loss, acne, redness, etc.), my hair has always remained my buddy, my ally.

So imagine my reaction when, one day brushing out the mane, the brush doesn't leave my hair.

It continues to hold it, the ends curled up almost animatedly in the wind, as both the brush and my hair sweep off of my head. I've read about women who choose to shave their heads when undergoing chemo rather than face the emotional turmoil of watching it fall out in patches.

I completely understand this now.

Over the past three months I have lost more than half of my hair. I keep it hidden in small buns, under pretense of keeping it out of my face, but really to hide the widening bald spot at the back. I got it cut to help detangle (in a vain attempt to slow down the loss) and averted my eyes from the cutting room floor, lest I see the pain of my loss increased, lifeless, on the ground.

I've been told this will resolve; it will grow back. A common side effect of prograf (anti-rejection) is hair loss. A common side effect of major surgery is hair loss. A common side effect of major blood loss is hair loss.

But I am not common.

If anything, this ordeal has proved that I am anything BUT common. Yet, this serves as another reminder that I am not normal and still healing.

But as my face de-pilsbury-doughboys, weight decreases, and muscles grow I'm slowly gaining back the confidence that initially eluded me post transplant. I cautiously bring new clothes into the dressing room. I paint shades of eyeshadow over lids that are slowly returning from thick pudgy pillows to thin almond leaflets. I eat carbs without wanting to kill myself.

Yet, my friend, my greatest source of confidence, is away, to return "eventually." So, it's hard to feel whole, even as everything else comes together.


Currently Listening to:

"Boo Going Home" by Randy Newman, from Monsters, Inc.

(Starting at 1:04 in particular)

A new-Newman!  Randy is best known for his incredible Toy Story scores, most notably the song "You've Got a Friend in Me," for which he wrote, sang, and was nominated for an Oscar ("Colors of the Wind" won that year which, I guess is reasonable...).

This particular refrain enters as Mike and Sully prepare to return Boo to her home inside the door. I'm not going to bother detailing the plot of this film here because frankly, if you haven't seen Monsters, Inc., then I don't even want to know you.

The piano motif has followed Boo throughout the story. The lullaby-like tones harken home to the early stages of childhood: a simple, hopeful tune. Like "Ring Around the Rosie" or "Jack and Jill," seemingly innocuous tunes that have a much deeper, even darker, meaning this song's major/minor call and response embody the bittersweetness of Boo's return home.

In what I like to think of as a "Peter Pan" solitary violin, this piece's through lines and its music-box like melody also embody the bittersweetness of growing up. With knowledge comes purpose and with growth comes greater opportunity. But sometimes, we'd all just like to step joyfully into our childhood bedrooms and pick up our most-treasured toys to share with out imaginary furry friends. Then, sleepy-eyed and fit to burst full of a day's experiences, we succumb to the gentleness of youthful sleep, in a beloved t-shirt that reaches to our toes.

This song is a saying goodbye from Sully to Boo, from Boo to her "imaginary" world, from total childhood innocence to a little more awareness of the world. The song reminds us that such times of pure, unfettered, and unadulterated emotion are behind us.

Nevertheless, such honest joy can always be accessed in the expanse of memory: a child's dreams that carry with us even as we go grow up.