Tracy Johnstone 12 February 2023

There is a Hair On My Sweater

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Blonde hair and black sweaters have been a thing in my life. A blonde hair on a black sweater stands out like yellow pollen on a black car.

Today, I found blonde hairs on my black sweater and it stopped me still for a moment. I reached into my closet in Houston, Texas, to grab a light sweater. It had my pre-chemo hair strewn about. It was like finding an artifact of my life before cancer.

As of this writing, it has been nine weeks since I received my official MD Anderson breast cancer diagnosis. What began as a noticeable lymph node under my arm went from concern to a biopsy, then to the surgeon scooting his stool close to me, putting his hand on my knee, and telling me it tested positive for breast cancer cells. I went to the “get your results” appointment alone, totally unconcerned about the outcome. He said something about five years and that is the last thing I heard. Turns out the five year thing is good news but in that moment it felt like the start of a countdown.

The hair loss began a few weeks after my first treatment despite “cold capping,” as they call it. By December 20 I decided my male pattern baldness was more than I wanted to manage so I went to a barber and had my head shaved. That was a moment unto itself as the woman who shaved my head had just completed her last radiation treatment. Poetic does not do the moment justice.

There were blonde hairs on my black sweater today. For the last six weeks that blonde hair has clung to my black sweater in the closet. Those hairs have silently waited for me, stayed in place, and showed up today to remind me of the road I have already traveled to get to this moment with my goofy shaved head. For a minute I wanted to put them in a baggie like baby curls, never to be seen again.

Instead, I removed them one by one, casting them to the side. There were no tears, no grieving for my head full of big hair. Just a deep sense of gratitude for the four drugs that drip into my body. The chemo can have my hair for now. If that is all this process costs me I will be the luckiest girl in the world.