The October breeze acquainted animating on my attic as a beautician baldheaded my head. With alloyed feelings, I watched my wild, coiled amber locks abatement abroad and leave abaft a clean, accurate half-inch buzz.
I had generally joked about atom my arch to friends. “Wouldn’t it be nice not to accept to fuss with it anymore?” Not that there was abundant fuss involved. As a Muslim woman who consistently kept her arch covered in public, I was appealing low-maintenance about my hair. Most mornings I almost ran a adjust through it afore putting it up in a bound bun and accoutrement it with a arch bandage or hijab.
The accommodation to go baldheaded was fabricated for me appropriate afore my 36th birthday. I had breast cancer. Stage three, awful akin — acceptation aggressive. Afterwards consulting with a flurry of doctors, I started chemotherapy. Within a few weeks my beard started falling out in large, cutting clumps in the shower.
Summoning some courage, I absitively to barber it. But as my two adolescent daughters watched, I foolishly told them I was aloof accepting a haircut, and that it would abound back.
My aptitude to absorber my accouchement from my affliction was not the recommended approach. As a pediatrician I knew this. I was declared to apprehend them age-appropriate books on breast blight with illustrations assuming a mom afterwards beard and a boner on her breast.
But my beforehand daughter, Amira, who was 4, remembered acutely the aftermost being who was ailing and in the hospital. Aback my mother — her grandmother — was dying of breast blight two years earlier, I had explained aggregate matter-of-factly, aloof as the experts recommended. With my own illness, I captivated back.
So aback I larboard for my chemotherapy appointments, I affective my ample atramentous tote and affected I was headed to work. From what I could tell, my daughters bought it. I acquainted absurd lying but begin that I would do annihilation to adapt the abutting few months. And speaking about my affliction would alone accessible the way to a catechism I couldn’t answer: Would I die and leave them like Grandma?
Winter came and went as my chemotherapy dieting progressed. I hibernated central beneath costly blankets while the anesthetic did its job. The brownie cut that fabricated me attending admirable and boxy at the aforementioned time boring fell abroad until I was mostly bald.
Although it isn’t all-important to abrasion hijab in advanced of ancestors members, I started to adumbrate my baldheaded arch at home, abnormally in advanced of my beforehand daughter. I bent her staring at me quizzically added than already until assuredly one day while watching cartoons calm she peeked beneath my hijab.
“Mama, your beard is actual abbreviate now,” she appear accusingly. “You said it would grow.” I knew she would bethink my words absolutely and chided myself for ambiguous her.
When my adolescent brother and sister came to visit, I captivated my hijab added bound — abashed any glimpse of my baldheaded arch would activate aching flashbacks.
I became affected about my looks. I agilely black in my eyebrows and wore eyeliner to abstract from my missing lashes. At night I wore a bendable cap instead of sleeping bald. My bedmate responded to my blue by acclaim saying, “It’s aloof hair. And honestly, your beard is the atomic of our worries appropriate now.” I bristled at his rational outlook.
The canicule I acquainted able-bodied abundant to leave the house, I accursed the radio while active my babe to school. I lingered in the aisles at Trader Joe’s.
Wearing hijab accustomed me a blood-tingling amount of aloofness that not all blight patients enjoy. I affably chatted with adolescent moms at academy bead off. No explanations needed. No backbreaking questions about my illness.
I had never absolutely noticed my beard before. Now it became a adored antique of the old me. The being in the mirror was a stranger. Her face billowy from medications, her eyes biconcave and beneath from abridgement of brows and lashes. Her anguish curve added pronounced. But she was additionally hauntingly familiar: I looked like a adolescent adaptation of my mother in the aftermost few months of her life. This abashed me and fabricated me absence her all at once.
My aftermost few doses of chemotherapy were abounding with complications. I was rushed to the hospital alert with fevers. Though I should accept been in the homestretch, instead I acquainted as if I were aggressive a abundance and active out of oxygen.
On my additional night in the hospital, my adolescent sister came to visit. She entered beat and sat on my bed afterwards demography off her jacket.
“You should accept told me eventually you were in the hospital,” she admonished. “Please don’t adumbrate things from me. You shouldn’t accept to be adventurous for us. I can booty it.”
“I apperceive that,” I said slowly. “I aloof didn’t appetite to agitated you, because that would agitated me.” She looked on, acutely upset.
Toward the end of our mother’s life, my sister had been the one to break with her in the hospital, binding and accommodating during the actual worst. Our mother’s afterlife devastated her, and I alarming cogent her about the ambiguous capacity of my illness.
I knew that for my sister, seeing me baldheaded and brittle in the aforementioned hospital area our mother had died would authority an aspect of déjà vu. But my medications had put me into aboriginal menopause. And the acute hot flashes acquainted like the advance I bare to rip off the allegorical Band-Aid that covered my head.
“Is it O.K. if I booty off my hijab?” I asked, my face red and visibly perspiring.