Recipe: miso-glazed salmon
It was time. I had announced to Jeremy at the end of last summer that I would cut my hair after the ski resorts closed this season. I’m not especially attached to my hair. Whatever length or style it is, it always winds up being pinned or pulled back into a ponytail and/or braid so it doesn’t interfere with whatever I’m doing. But this was the first time I was cutting my hair since I lost it to chemotherapy back in 2008.
For the past few decades, I’ve been in a pattern of growing my hair long for 3-4 years and cutting it very short to donate the ponytail. I was graced with great hair – my dad’s hair. He’s over 70 years old and has merely hints of a few greys in a sea of thick, black, healthy hair. I figured it was the right thing to do to donate that hair every few years so someone else could benefit. After my breast cancer diagnosis in 2007, I was sitting at the end of the table in my surgeon’s office, swinging my legs to release my nervous energy, asking what comes next. He mentioned surgery, chemo, radiation. He told me, “You will lose your nice long hair.”
No I won’t, I thought in defiance. I got it cut and dyed with blue highlights and donated the ponytail. It’s just hair. It’s easy to let it go. I did it all the time.
i’m donating 16-17 inches this time
Two weeks after my first chemo infusion, I was well enough to resume my telemark ski program. I was in the advanced class with some really wonderful women – a few of whom are dear friends to this day. We were chatting over lunch at the ski lodge, our helmets, gloves, goggles, and hats strewn about the tables. I was listening to Leyla when I reached up to my hair to tuck it behind my ears because I had forgotten it was short. But when I grabbed for the hair, it came out without any effort. I looked at my hand and there were maybe forty strands of hair resting on my fingers. My mouth opened, but no sound came out. My eyes met with the eyes of my friends as everyone fell silent. I knew this was coming, I just didn’t know when. “I guess I have an appointment with a hairdresser in Boulder this afternoon,” I smiled.
I pushed it from my mind until class was over and then I drove home, changed out of my ski clothes, and drove to a Cost Cutters in Boulder. There was no need to have anything fancy done. I just wanted my head shaved so I wouldn’t shed everywhere. Hair loss was going to be on my terms, not chemo’s terms. When the hairdresser asked me what I wanted done, I quietly explained to him that I wanted to have my head shaved because my hair was coming out, but that I needed him to be extra careful not to cut me because I was immunocompromised from chemo. He nodded and proceeded to gently shave my head, softly calling me “sweetheart” and saying, “There you go.” I had trouble looking up at the mirror, but I watched it disappear. And I was fine. I didn’t cry. I thanked him, gave him an enormous tip, settled up at the front and put a hat on as I stepped outside the shop into the cold air.
And then I sat in the car and all of the emotion I had held in check welled up out of my chest and into a stream of tears pouring down my cheeks. Everyone told me I was going to lose my hair and I was totally ready for it. Except I wasn’t. I didn’t know that it would sucker punch me the way it did. It wasn’t the hair. It was the feeling of losing control as if all of the rules of my body had changed. I was scared and I felt very much alone. Cancer is a jerk.
the new cut is called an inverted stacked bob
It would be nine months before peach fuzz began to materialize on my head and another couple of months before I observed, “Jeremy, I think my hair is coming back curly!” My once straight, thick, dense black hair was growing back finer, softer, thinner, a shade lighter, and curly. I thought it might return to normal after a few years, as some folks have reported of their experiences, but after I washed out all of the styling from my haircut on Friday it is still the post-chemo hair. What matters is that I have hair I can donate.
My braids and ponytails have been shipped to Locks of Love in the past (several times, in fact). I was going to do it again when my friend, Wendy – who was also donating her hair, looked into charitable organizations that accept hair donations. I know Locks of Love is the de facto hair donation place, but after reading up on their numbers and their wig recipients (primarily children with alopecia and not so much children with cancer), I’ve decided to send my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths (which is where Wendy’s hair went). Pantene Beautiful Lengths makes real hair wigs for women with cancer.
That felt good, to be able to donate again. I’m already starting on the next one.
short hair, just in time for summer
That’s probably the most I’ve ever talked about hair since eighth grade. For me, the thing I love most about short hair is how much less time I spend on it. Even though we’re slated to get another foot of snow Monday night (I know, right? could it BE any better?!?!?), these longer daylight hours have my mind fixated on all manner of outdoor fun this summer like hiking, mountain biking, trail running. That means I want to spend less time in the kitchen too. Wild caught salmon are showing up at my local Whole Foods, so you know that’s a good thing.
salmon, miso, mirin, rice vinegar, sesame seeds
mix the miso, mirin, and rice vinegar together
a nice paste
**Jump for more butter**