Losing it: Hair Stories

This week we are talking about hair. Yes, hair.

Is it just the stuff growing out of our heads, a mere byproduct of dead cells? Or is it more than that?

Meet Angie Goffredi.

Angie’s story is one of wisdom – wisdom that has come at the cost of trials and painful uncertainty. I am so thankful that she has chosen to write down part of her story to share with us.

With that said, here are her thoughts on hair.

Angie Goffredi

Angie Goffredi

Natural hair color/style:

Dark brown , almost always worn a little longer than shoulder length. Thick in number but fine in texture.

Hair identity:

My hair has never really been an identifying feature in my life. Ponytail and side bangs has been the standard since high school until recently.

Thoughts on losing her hair, before it actually happened:

I’d never really given losing it much thought! I’d always been hesitant to cut my hair much shorter than Audrey Tautou had it in “Amelie,” because as a teenager I’d looked about three years younger than I was. High school brought the usual rounds of crazy hair dying and drastic styles, but I’d kept it pretty basic and long the majority of the time. If I could tie it back while running or playing soccer, then that was good enough for me!

In the battle and losing her hair:

Losing my hair was terrifying. I was 19 and scared enough already at the fact that only six weeks earlier I’d been diagnosed with thyroid cancer that had (unbeknownst to me) been there for three years, had surgery to remove the tumor four weeks earlier, and on top of that, had friends and family assure me that since I was going through radiation therapy rather than chemo, my hair wouldn’t fall out. That’s normally the case, but for thyroid cancer the radiation is orally dosed out in a pill which circulates through your body targeting any cancerous tissue left after surgery. My cancer had spread from my thyroid up into lymph nodes in my neck, so my dosage was pretty high.

It wasn’t an immediate loss. It set in about two weeks after my week of treatment finished.

The first day I noticed it I was in the shower and just kept pulling chunks of hair out as I rinsed. Looking down at my hands, covered in hair, rinsing them off, and then seeing them covered in more and more hair made me dizzy.

It hit me then, honestly. I’d spent six weeks going through tests, ultrasounds, biopsies, a total thyroidectomy, and finally radioactive iodine ablation. I was trying to keep my head above water and thinking that I’d make it out fine, but looking down at the hair in my hands or the drastic thinning as I’d brush each day and think, “I’m a cancer patient. I’m sick. I’m broken. What the hell, I’m only 19. Is this really happening?”

I didn’t lose all of my hair but it thinned out to about half of my usual body. That, paired with skin that was so grey it was almost translucent and a body weight of 103 pounds made me feel like I should just give up. Looking in the mirror at my new giant scar smack in the middle of my neck, my unhealthy body weight, puffy face, and my pallid skin, AND half of my hair just broke me.I could’ve kept it positive with just the scar and puffiness. But losing my hair made me look like Cancer Kid Angie, not Cancer Survivor Angie. I eventually cut it short to keep it off of my scar, but (at the time) more importantly to disguise the fact that I thought I was broken.

An image of hair:

My hair eventually grew back in, thickened up, and grew long again. After a four-year battle, last year I was told that I was in remission. My hair was the same as it had been before, long and dark, but with new swathes of icy white behind my ears and mixed into the top. I’m not sure where they came from, whether they’re hereditary or a product of radiation, but I’ve stopped dying them dark because I’ve learned to love them.

A month ago I told my stylist I wanted to do something drastic with my hair. I was so tired of looking the same and couldn’t figure out why. I almost went for a full pixie cut but stopped here because it just worked!

I felt alive. I was a new me.

It took a few days before the reason why I felt such a change and such relief with this new style. In my entire life I had never done something so dramatic to my hair. Now I looked in the mirror and no longer saw the echo of Cancer Kid Angie. I was brand new, whole again, and looked as healthy as I felt.

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