Six Years Post-chemo

I’m six solid years post-chemo. Beginning with the first note of the "The American Idol" theme song every December, I feel a familiar anticipatory nudge. When I heard that music in late 2009, I knew I would be done with chemo at the airing of the first episode in early January 2010. Now, I privately revel at the beginning of every "Idol" season. It’s still a quiet milestone for me. With this being the last season of "Idol," I may need to break out reruns next year in early January to mark the occasion.

Unlike this annual reminder, every day when I look in the mirror, I see these crazy chemo curls. They are like another creature that is part of me and over which I have no control. I'm amazed that they have stuck around after all this time! Often I think about how much money I spent on perms in the 80s to get curls like this.

I just read “A Midsummer Night -- #nofilter” with Will and Liam. It's a broken down version of Shakespeare's play told via social media -- tweets, statuses, emails, and chat rooms. That sprite Puck will never change! My twisted locks look like a home for mischievous sprites like him and sassy fairies like Tinkerbell – all whom like to grab hold of slender sections of my hair and spin like mad from top to bottom.

A few months ago, my stylist lifted the top third of my hair and just started laughing at the sight underneath. “There are just layers and layers of tendrils under here!” She handed me a mirror. They looked like vines hanging in spirals from trees in a remote rain forest. I was as amazed as she.

Fighting for control and attempting to stay cool, I regularly wrap these shoulder-length tendrils into a clip and let the curls fall and disperse at will over the top. Until last week, when the New England temps finally plunged and my ears stuck out into the cold. It was time for a new style. Or at least a new length. “Cut off four inches and layer it. I don’t want to look like a blunt ski mountain.”

I walked in with a pony tail. The sprites were rebelling against the tight elastic band and the four stoutly anchored bobby pins.

I watched 3-inch pieces fall to the ground. She must have thought four inches would be too much. Those little creatures’ twisted ropes were a quarter shorter than when I woke up that morning. As the stylist prepared the goo to keep my locks curly and smooth, I peered into the mirror. The curls were still there, just shorter. She diffused my hair for 10 minutes, and the tight tendrils sprung into bouncy curls. “My hair is happiest big.” She nodded and grinned in agreement. And it really is happy, those strands I refer to in third person atop my head.

Home to free-spirited sprites and fairies.