Hi's Eye

Bald and beautiful

Olivia Morrison, Free-lance Writer

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Waves of sadness would come and go during my initial stay at the hospital when the cancer news was still fresh.

Instead of crying, I would mostly get angry and yell into the void: “It could’ve been benign!”

Nonetheless, I did—and still do—my fair share of crying, for a number of reasons. When I’m not worrying about my odds of survival or if the chemo is working, I’m freaking out about how I look.    

After I shaved my head, a lot of people asked me if it felt empowering.

It didn’t.

After a week of chemo—which is synonymous with not eating and vomiting—I shaved my head in my kitchen surrounded by my three aunts and my mom. They all cheered me on as I shaved the first few pieces of hair. Despite their cheers, once I was finished and put the clippers down, I felt defeated.

Right before I was about to step in the shower to wash away all the bits of hair that still clung to my body, I looked in the mirror and gasped. I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore. I was bald, 10 pounds lighter, my chest was wrapped in Saran wrap to cover my port, most of my muscle was gone and I had an ugly, five-inch scar on my lower back from surgery. To me, I looked just as ugly as the chemo made me physically feel.

I was afraid and started wearing hats and baggy clothes to hide what had become of me. Instead of dealing with my new appearance, I mastered the art of washing my hands while looking at my feet so that I wouldn’t have to look at myself in the mirror. And I became enthralled with all things prom.

I have a vision of who I want to look like on prom night: me.

Not sick me. I want a full head of brown hair and I want it to look natural. I want eyebrows and eyelashes and I want my strength. So I have prepared myself with false eyelashes and I found a place for false eyebrows in case my brows decide to leave me, too.

I don’t want people to see me and see my cancer. I want them to see Olivia Morrison. Because what boy is ever going to want to go to the prom with some bald girl? My friends talk about boys, but sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my seat at that table and that I won’t be able to sit back down until I have at least a pixie cut going on.

How we look is important because it is our identity. When I think of myself, I see an engaged student, a dedicated runner and a good friend. I want to look like that person whom people knew before I got sick. I want people to be able to recognize me because I’m still the same person, even if I let myself forget that sometimes.

I’m still strong, even though right now I’m weak; I’m still a student, even though I’m in the hospital; I’m still a runner, even though all I can do now is walk; and I’m still beautiful, even though I’m bald.

1 Comment

One Response to “Bald and beautiful”

  1. Donna Del Moro on March 22nd, 2018 8:30 pm

    We met today, Olivia. I am a journalism teacher and the mom of a young cancer survivor. I loved reading your article; I can’t feel your particular pain, but I did feel it vicariously through my daughter. I remember one day driving home from school and my daughter was turning the corner in her car. She passed me and I remember thinking ‘oh my god, that’s my little girl and she’s bald!’ It was a sobering moment, but then, I thought better of it. She was driving her car. She wasn’t sick anymore, and she was rocking that bald head. She tried wigs, funky colored pink ones or green ones for St. Patty’s Day, but they were hot and uncomfortable. She wound up wearing hats at times, but mostly, she just wore her baldness. I can’t speak for her; I know it was tough, but I wanted to say to you and your mom and your family: one minute at a time! You got this. Take care of yourself. It was a pleasure to meet you and I will read some more of your articles. Writing is therapy! It was always my therapy throughout my life and in particular, during Annie’s treatment. Remember: you are the master of your fate…the captain of your soul.

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