Putting My ‘Old Normal’ to Rest

Samm's latest haircut.
Samm’s latest haircut.

By: Samm Newton

After chemo, I had this conversation frequently with friends:

Friend: “Your hair is so curly.”

Me (In my head): “Yeah, it’s not supposed to be this curly. I fucking hate it! You know, I don’t know how to deal with this. It took me 25 years to learn how to deal with my own hair, and then now I have brand new hair that I don’t know how to deal with!”

It was just this thing that I was kind of angry about.

Because before cancer I was one way and now I am another.

I used to be able to do this and now I can’t.

I used to like certain things that now I don’t.

This new normal isn’t what I want, I want the old normal.

The younger me, before cancer changed my life forever.

My former hair.

My former self.

My former self is idealized by a wig that sits on a high shelf in my bathroom. It is composed of about two feet worth of long, brown, wavy, perfect, beautiful, synthetic hair. Almost two years after my own hair fell out, and with a solid set of new locks growing in, I still haven’t been quite able to part with it. What if I need it again?

So there it sits, startling plumbers, guests, and occasionally, even myself, floating on its faceless styrofoam pedestal. I had picked this specific wig because it most resembled my favorite hairstyle before diagnosis, and when I remember myself in my twenties this is the hair I remember.

But recent revelations have forced me to reevaluate both the person I remember and the one I am now.

Experiences such as Athletes 4 Cancer‘s Camp Koru, where I met other young cancer survivors, helped me realize that they too struggle with reconciling their old and new normals. This has helped me learn that comparing now to then is a roadblock to personal growth after trauma. I’m not the same, and I’m never going to be the same because, yes, cancer changes you. Really though, life changes you. It changes all of us.

Honestly, if I had to choose a wig again it’d probably be different. Shorter, curlier, more like my current hair. I’ve recently noticed that my hair has started to flatten out a bit, and I feel like it’s a sign to start a new chapter after cancer. That chapter begins like this: “I can embrace it. This is the new me. This is my new normal. This is my new life.”

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