Leos Are All About The Hair

I’m a Leo, and if there’s one thing you hear about Leos and appearance—aside from our overall investment in it—is that Leos are all about our hair. That’s always been true for me. Beginning with my earliest adventures with a bingo dabber in sixth grade (all the rage at my elementary school in the late 90s), I’ve had a lot of hairstyles and I’ve never been afraid of trying something new. It’s been lavender, red, dark brown, platinum blonde, and dozens of different styles and lengths. My attitude was a mixture of “it’s just hair” and “it’s HAIR!” The one thing I had never really experimented with was a pixie. I liked it, admired it on other women, but did not feel with any confidence it would flatter me. So it’s kind of ironic that about a year after I turned 30, and decided to stop messing with it, let it grow long, and enjoy my natural hair color while I had it, I lost it all to chemotherapy.

I was warned that losing your hair can be one of the most emotional parts of a cancer diagnosis. As the chemotherapy nurse handed me pamphlet after pamphlet, there was one specifically devoted to the feelings and emotions this can stir up. I may have rolled my eyes – it didn’t really worry me, and I think I can thank my years of hair experimentation for that. I had done the experiments and had the evidence that it was, indeed, “just hair.”

Nonetheless, I took the pamphlets to heart and decided to make it an event: a day after my second treatment, five of my friends came over with a cake and they all took a turn shearing it off. As expected, I wasn’t emotional about losing it. I didn’t hate how I looked bald – actually, I was pleasantly surprised. What did end up getting to me was just how boring it was. A head is always just a head, and hats and scarves and wigs are a poor substitute for hair and hairstyles that are a part of you. It made me realize, truly, how much hair becomes part of our identity, and how much I really had relied on it to communicate to the world who I am – even if that changed often. I felt stuck in my unchanging baldness, and as the months wore on, I felt stuck in cancer. The parallels were so acute that I finally understood what the pamphlet had been warning me about.

As my hair started growing back in, tracking the growth became my new hobby. I Googled and re-Googled pictures of other women’s hair regrowth, feeling discouraged by how slowly it seemed to go. Five months with only an inch of hair seemed an inconceivable horror to me. Of course, I found as you move through something, it’s nothing like what you imagine it will be; the horror you expected often doesn’t manifest, or you find it comes in unexpected places. Just as my experience with cancer had surprised me, so too did my hair journey. I found I like the close-cropped look and fancied myself Mia Farrow. I appreciated that I had been forced to try something that looked daring – and though I hadn’t had a choice, other people didn’t need to know that.

Suddenly I was again telling people who I was: someone who’s not afraid to experiment, who likes looking a bit different and appreciates things that are a bit more offbeat. It seems trite to say that my cancer experience was mirrored by my hair, but in a lot of ways, it was. As my hair slowly but surely started moving again, so did I: I felt less tethered to cancer, less obviously like a cancer patient, and more like I had transitioned into survivorhood. It felt, finally, a bit like my life had started moving again too. The longer my hair gets, the less I think about it; the further away from cancer I get, the less I think about it. But they’ll both always be part of my identity. I’m not at the point yet where I can say I’m grateful for my diagnosis, and I’m not sure I ever will be – but I can say I’m glad I know what I look like bald.

Kaari Sinnaeve — Manager, Audience Communications.  Diagnosed at 32.  IDC, Stage III, Triple Positive. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kaari moved to Toronto at age 25 to complete a master’s degree in Art History. After spending several years in the art world, she now works at a national performing arts company. With no family history of breast cancer, her diagnosis, which included significant lymph node involvement, was a surprise. Kaari’s mission now is to let other young people know cancer can happen to them: if even one person receives an earlier diagnosis than her, the Instagram oversharing will be worth it. In her spare time Kaari enjoys Poshmark, HIIT dance classes on YouTube, and the novels of Georgette Heyer and John le Carré (among others). She is grateful for the incredible treatment she received at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. @kaari.s

This piece has been republished with permission from WILDFIRE Magazine, the “Body” issue, published originally June 12th, 2021. More information available at  wildfirecommunity.org    

WILDFIRE Magazine is the only magazine for young women survivors and fighters of breast cancer under 45 years old. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, WILDFIRE is a beautiful, story-based bi-monthly magazine published on different themes relevant to young women survivors, from stage 0 to stage IV. Beautiful and ad-free! Visit  wildfirecommunity.org for more info.

Read more from the community on bodyidentity after a breast cancer diagnosis.

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