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Posted 3/5/2014

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  How do you like that for a short and (not so) sweet title? This post is stimulated by another wonderful essay by Susan Gubar about her experience with wigs. Wigs and head coverings in general are often a major topic of concern and conversation in my office. No need to get into all the meanings and importance of hair, but most of us have spent our lives thinking about texture and curl and color and thickness and shine and style--and not about how to cover a bald head. Those of us who are old enough may recall a time in the early 70s when wigs were sometimes stylish. I didn't have a wig, but I do recall a long braid that I sometimes added to my already long hair.

  Some women are brave enough to go bald--and those who do so tend to look gorgeous. Here is a story: some years ago, a woman whom I knew told me that she was traveling with her family along the New Jersey Turnpike. They stopped at a rest area, and, sitting in the restaurant, she noticed another woman come in with her family. Woman #2 was bald. Looking at her, the woman whom I knew was overcome with admiration and a sense of solidarity, and immediately took off her own wig. Within a few minutes, she said there were three other bald heads in the room.

  Moral of the story: We have no idea how many people around us may be experiencing the same cancer side effects. Second comment: I learned the hard way not to say something like: "I have been there, too. It will come back." Making that stupid remark twenty years ago, I was horrified to be told: "No it won't. I have metastatic disease and will never have hair again." Moral of that lesson: Keep your thoughts to yourself.

  Here is Ms. Gubar's delightful essay:

Living With Cancer: Wigged Out

The targeted cancer drug extending my life is killing my hair. Especially at the top of my head, a
beige scalp gleams through sparse black and white wires. For obvious reasons, I’m not complaining.
During chemo, when I lost my hair before, I resorted to scarves and hats, assuming it would grow
back. But now I need to continue taking the experimental pills in a clinical trial and therefore suspect that I will continue to lose, rather than regain, hair.
To my eyes, male-pattern baldness looks worse (on me) than totally-bald cancer patient mindfully
contemplating her mortality like a Buddhist nun. Not so to my haircutter. When I gave her a choice
between President Obama and Captain Jean Luc Picard at my last appointment, she chose the
President, albeit with a receding hairline.

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