The votes were in and we were locked on a platinum blonde mohawk. Everything that seemed thrilling and exciting about choosing looks and watching all of my family and friends vote for my pre-chemo ‘do,’ suddenly made me feel nauseated. Why wasn’t this fun anymore? What had worn off?
Oh right. I have cancer. I am not doing this as some publicity stunt for my non-existent fame. I am doing this because, in about a month, I will have no hair at all. It will have been poisoned off of my whole body. Behind the glittery facade of change, was that same lurking villain. Fucking cancer has to steal my mojo again.
As you have all witnessed, I don’t really do things the orthodox way. What is the normal person’s reaction to having their hair fall out, as a consequence of chemotherapy? Perhaps holding on to whatever hair they have for as long as they can and then quietly switching to a wig, when that can no longer be accomplished? Yeah, I am not normal. It was time to flip the script.
I decided that I was going to make this initial short haircut to prepare for chemo an ‘event.’ After enlisting the internet to choose my new hairstyle, I decided to schedule a small soirée for the occasion. Lucky for me, I have a stylist, Tharie, who has become a wonderful friend. One text to her later, my pre-chemo ‘do’ became a party.
Now this may come as a shock to some of you, but my eyelashes are, let’s just say, enhanced. Whenever I would go to see Tharie there was always another woman there wearing those kooky magnifying glasses and bending over a woman laying almost supine on her beauty chair. For a while I wasn’t sure what was going on over there, but let’s just say that when I finally got the memo, this guy right here- who wears makeup roughly 12 days a year- became hooked on Anastasia‘s individual lash extensions. I am serious folks, if you ever decide to invest in eyelash extensions, which I highly recommend that you do, you will become a junkie. Call Anastasia. You’ve been warned.
I bring up the lashes not because I want to spill all of my beauty secrets (that is the only one, btw), but because I decided to up the ante with my hair chop party and offer the quickie version of my eyelash extensions to my party guests and thus began, Grace’s Locks For Lashes.
It took me 2 hours to mock this up. Time very well spent.
I want to stress that the wonderful women of Tress Beauty Lounge who worked into the late hours of the night on both my hair and lashes and that of my family and friends, very generously donated all funds raised of their time and talents to the American Cancer Society. Shameless plug alert!! If you need a new hairstylist or someone to make you look 100% more awake with faux lash extensions, please visit: Tress Beauty Lounge.
Ok, so here we go. After multiple discussions with Tharie and her colleagues, this is what had to go down in order to get my dark brown hair, blonde. Three days before the party I head into Tress to have Tharie start bleaching out my ‘mohawk area.’ We decided to only put bleach on this top area, as we wanted to keep some virgin long hair to donate. Went home after day #1 looking like I just got a head of really wacky light highlights. Tharie made me promise not to post any pictures of this in between stage as it could possibly ruin her career if people didn’t understand the greater concept.
The day before the party, I headed back in and Tharie laid a second level of bleach blonde highlights to my ‘hawk area.’ I left that afternoon looking like I escaped a mental institution where I was being held for making terrible hair choices. Remember that outside of the crown of my head, I still have a ton of long dark brown hair. Not my best look. I had to wear a baseball hat for 48 hours straight and when I had to take it off at physical therapy and acupuncture appointments, I had to waste 5 minutes explaining what everyone was about to see when I removed the hat. Horror.
What would you have thought if you ran into me at the deli counter with this hairdo?
Cut to the party. I am so excited to see family and friends, but I am quaking with nerves about the reason we are all there. Allow me to clarify that yes, I was superficially nervous about my hair cut as well as being anxious about the reason behind it. I would like to think I am above the vanity level that would stop me from caring about my looks for the next month, but alas, I am as shallow as the next middle-aged housewife who dreams of the good ‘ol days of being catcalled.
The salon was ours for the night so we brought in food and plenty of booze. As friends started to file in, I was somehow getting exponentially more nervous, all while being disarmed by the comfort of people who love and support me. I waffled around the party for a while, procrastinating the inevitable. In the meantime, my beautiful 5 year old daughter Cecilia started to get her hair colored. A lot of this was for her. I want my cancer to be as not-scary as possible for my three young kids. If all she remembers about mommy’s cancer is that she got to have hot pink and blue streaks in her hair, that is a huge win.
She’s not a diva or anything…
After Cecilia was finished and looking gorge, it was my turn. My already bleached mohawk area was pulled away and my long brown hair was put into multiple rubber bands so that we could donate that hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths which provides wigs for women with all types of cancer.
A glass of champagne was flung into my shaky hands. Cecilia is desperate to cut mommy’s hair off with a scissors so we let her cut the first little ponytail. I had not anticipated this, but next my husband Joe walks over to cut the next piece. After that, my mother who sweetly gives me a kiss before cutting, takes off the last ponytail. I kept my eyes closed as tears quietly ran out of them as my friends circled around me for support.
Oh dear God
Oh shit. Chugging it
Does he look a little too happy…?
A kiss from mom, but look, she’s got those scissors at the ready
My sweet girl wiping away my tears
At this moment I look like Billy Idol after a bender, but boy, do I feel cared for and supported.
The rest is sort of (booze-laden) history. My friends got blow-outs and lash extensions while sipping champagne and eating noshes. I had my hair cut shorter and bleached blonder incrementally over the next few hours. Getting dark hair like mine up to a platinum blonde is a monumental task, so as the hour drew late, we decided to just go for the final cut and worry about getting ‘platinum, platinum’ in the coming days.
Debbie B. with a purple streak!
As Kelly, another wonderful woman and stylist at Tress finished up my ‘hawk,’ I sat turned away from the mirror. When she was finished with the styling, it was time for my reveal. So Extreme Home Makeover 2010, but it was awesome.
A final kiss from my girl before the reveal
Sweet baby Jesus…
It is shocking to see yourself as Tilda Swinton (the hot version, not the crazy version). I loved it, yet somewhere deep inside I had to also loathe it for what it represented. Why does cancer have to always steal my thunder? Jerk.
Remember my pre-mastectomy photos from my, ‘Posterity‘ blog post? That same gifted photographer and my friend, Katie Gierke of, Kathryn Hastings Photography, was there the whole night snapping photos of the goings-on. I knew she was taking photos, but my god, I had no idea how she was able to capture the feeling of every moment. When I opened the link to the photos she had taken, I was aghast. That woman is brilliant at what she does and couldn’t be kinder (or prettier).
This was so much more than a party. So much more than a haircut. This was me being brave and doing so amongst people that I love and who love me. My human safety net.
I am blonde. I have a mohawk. I even sort of look like Justin Bieber circa May 2016. But I am still your Grancer, just a little shinier. And we all know that makes me happy.