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The Girl In The Car


The day of my 50th birthday. 8 weeks before this all started.

I got my pre-baldness haircut the other day. A transition cut. Short so that when my hair starts falling out in a few weeks it will seem less dramatic. To me at least.

I didn’t think that I would care about having hair shorter than I have ever had, except for that one time in fourth grade when I looked like a boy. But on the way to the hairdresser, with Julia sitting next to me in the car, I started freaking out inside my head. I didn’t want her to know. She was being a teen. Which is to say not easy. And I don’t fault her for that. Figuring out this whole breast cancer thing isn’t easy for grown ups much less teens who are used to being the center of their mother’s world.

We were at a light and I was trying to distract myself so tears wouldn’t start running down my cheeks and the car behind me caught my eye. It was a black sporty car with a big white starfish hanging from the rear view mirror. The windows were down. The driver was a young woman, maybe in her mid twenties. She was wearing big aviator sunglasses. And she had this huge amount of long lush curly hair piled on top of her head. Before the light changed, she took her hair down, played with it and then twirled it up into a bun on the top of her head.

She was behind me for the next several miles so I had a few opportunities to stalk her from my driver seat. Stopped at the next light, I could hear her music. It sounded like one of the bands that my daughter listens to that I used to know the names of until she started driving herself to school. She was moving a little to it and I liked how it sounded.

I could see that she was talking to someone but I didn’t see anyone else in her car. Until this cute little dog, the most adorable kind of mutt, perched itself on the console in between the two front seats. The girl was saying something that I couldn’t hear and the dog was listening intently. At one point, she reached over and gave the dog’s lip a little pull.

The moment was so sweet and tender, I almost broke into a full on sob. I wanted to be that girl. Have that hair. Touch that dog’s lip. Go wherever it was that she was going because any where would be better than where I was going. I was going to mark myself with the first visible sign that I have cancer.

But her car turned and mine went straight. Straight to see Kim, my hairdresser. She was great. Not making a big deal out of it. Just making conversation, cutting my hair until I liked what I saw. She even talked me into coloring the gray out because two weeks is two weeks. And she wanted me to feel the best that I could about my appearance where as I had been thinking, “Fuck it. It’s all going to fall out anyway.”. She was right. On top of all of that, she wouldn’t let me pay her.

It’s been a few days since my haircut and instead of making me feel like I have cancer, the haircut has made me feel empowered. And fierce. I have more control over this disease, and how I handle it, than I realized.

Fuck you cancer. You’ve got nothing on me. I will fight your sorry ass until you are gone. But hey,  thanks for making me cut my hair short. I really, really like it.


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