Bentley, Laura – Surviving Mesothelioma

Bentley, Laura

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Everyone has those bad hair days, but for me a bad hair day meant every day. I was “blessed” with thick, unmanageable, dark, curly hair from birth. Unlike my friends who all had straight, never frizzy, always in its rightful place hair, I spent hours trying to minimize the volume of my hair. In pictures, my hair stood out like a bush surrounded by my friend’s tamed heads of hair. I would pull my hair back in a tight ponytail and use as much hairspray as possible to hide the huge curls growing from my head. All I wanted was for my hair to be anything but curly. I got my wish…sort of.

During my sophomore year of high school, my world as I knew it came crashing down around me. After a few days of what I thought to be common stomach pain, I was told that I had cancer. The night I was diagnosed, I was in complete shock of what was happening. I thought they had made a mistake. They must have confused me with another Laura Bentley. When the doctors told me I was going to lose my hair because of the chemotherapy, I couldn’t help but cry. What was happening to me? The next couple of weeks were hard. My hair started to fall out as I became weaker each day. Every morning, I would wake-up with more hair on my pillow than the day before. The thinning hair and bald spots were too much for me to handle. That’s when I knew it was time to say goodbye to my hair.

Mixed feelings rushed through me as the electric razor ran over my head. The hair I had battled with for fifteen years was now gone. I had many options for hairstyles now that I would be wearing wigs. This was exciting to me, but for some reason I still felt some attachment to my thick, curly hair. I covered my bald head with a variety of wigs. Brunette wigs, straight wigs, even blonde wigs were part of my wardrobe. My friends and family thought it was fun to see me in different hair colors and styles each day.

My doctor told me that after I was done with my six months of intensive chemotherapy, my hair might grow back differently. He told me a story of one of his patients whose hair was dark brown before chemotherapy and blonde after. He said for all I know my hair could come back straight. This thought hit me hard. I could finally have straight, manageable hair like everybody else. But the more I thought about this the more I longed for my old hair. As much of a pain my curls were, they were my curls. It was the hair that everyone knew me by. My curls made me different from everyone else. My hair defined me as me. It gave me my unique identity and the ability to stand out in a crowd.

I never realized how much my hair meant to me. I had to lose my hair to appreciate what once covered my head. I truly love my hair, frizz and all, because it is mine. With everything I have gone through, my hair seems trivial. But to me, my hair is concrete. It is a reminder to me of how lucky I am to be here- healthy and happy. Sometimes it takes a life-altering event like this to realize the small gifts that we are given.

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