Last week I did something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but could never muster up enough courage. I donated 10 inches of my hair to Locks of Love.
I’m almost embarrassed to talk about the emotional attachment I’ve developed to my hair. It serves as my personal security blanket. Whether I am feeling insecure about my bad skin or out-of-shape body, I can always rely on the presence of my long flowy locks of blonde hair. For some, hair is just an inanimate object and changing it’s color or cutting it off is no big deal. But for many others, our hair is a distinct identifier of who we are. I am Chelsey – that girl with the long, blonde hair. That is who I’ve been since childhood, throughout my adolescence and who I remained as an adult.
Like I said, donating my hair is something I’ve been wanting to do for years. More specifically, ever since my grandmother succumbed to colon cancer in 2003. She had the biggest, most beautiful head of red curly hair you’ve ever laid eyes on. Much like myself, her big red hair was her trademark (along with her spitfire personality). Seeing her lose all of it during her chemo treatment was tragic. My Grandma Pat lost her battle with cancer only 5 months after this photo was taken at my high school graduation.
Shortly after her passing, I met a boy who soon would become the love of my life. His name is Michael and he is a cancer survivor. I didn’t discover this until the first day I saw him without a shirt. He had a gruesome vertical scar going down the length of his spine and another along his breastbone. When he was 12, he developed such an intense pain in his back that he became immobile. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and a portion of his spine was wrapped by a tumor, crippling him. Cancer treatment during this time was still experimental. He was told he may never walk again and was even selected to be apart of the Make-A-Wish program. Miraculously, his tumor was successfully removed and the experimental treatment WORKED! Michael has been in remission for 20 years. I am teary-eyed just writing this – thinking about how my life would be so different had he been taken from this world at 12 years old. Michael is now a healthy 32 year old guy, but his treatment left him with abnormal hair growth which he remedies by keeping his head shaved bald. You can imagine how this would perpetuate my desire to help a child who might be going through the same experience.
In January, my uncle discovered he was suffering from a very aggressive form of liver cancer. The most devastating blow was being told he may only have a few short months left with us. Simultaneously, my 81-year-old grandpa began a round of chemo treatment as he was taken out of remission for the Leukemia he had beaten several years earlier.
The culmination of all this has caused me to develop a relationship with cancer that I never thought I would have.
The Big Day:
When I arrived at my salon appointment last week, I really didn’t know if I could go through with it. “Okay, show me again how long it’ll be if I donate it…” I must have repeated that at least 5 times. I sat in that chair talking myself in and out of it. Why was this so hard for me? It’s just hair! It grows back! It’s summer! I wasn’t as mentally prepared as I thought I was. Finally I blurted out “LET’S DO IT!”. My stylist replied “REALLY?” and kept asking “are you suuuure?” but honestly, I wasn’t. I don’t think I could ever have been when it came to cutting off my long hair. She sectioned my hair into two long ponytails and in a few snips it was over. 10 inches of my hair – gone! An unfamiliar emotional combination of awesome and OMG instantly ran through me, but the moment I held those long ponytails of hair in my hands, I felt so selflessly happy.
I’ve let my hair become a major part of my identity, which is why donating it became such an emotional endeavor. I don’t feel like I just handed over 10 inches of hair. I feel like I’ve given a part of myself to somebody who will cherish it more than I ever could.
If you’d like to learn more about Locks of Love and the amazing things they do for disadvantaged children suffering from hair loss, visit LocksOfLove.org.