Why Losing My Hair Felt Like Losing Control

by Mela Seyoum
Also Featured on KQED

Why Losing My Hair Felt Like Losing Control

by Mela Seyoum
Also Featured on KQED
12.26.19
12.26.19

Two years ago, I got sick. And when things were looking scary, I found myself fixating on something trivial: my hair.

I had a tumor, and I needed chemotherapy. My life changed overnight.

From the start of chemo, I was concerned with losing my hair. I know it sounds silly, but hey, I was a 16-year-old girl. I remember standing in the shower, holding a chunk of hair, and wondering what was next.

I was out of school for six months. I felt isolated and bored. The boredom gave way to anger. I thought about everything I was missing out on: my friendships, debate practice, and — I know this sounds cheesy — but learning. That was the only time I actually missed school. At this point, I got so sick that I couldn’t even eat for months. I felt betrayed by my body.

To disguise my hair loss I tried out different styles. I got bangs. I got a weave — which I ripped out six hours later. I bought several headbands.

In the summer, my doctors decided to stop chemotherapy. I went back to school my senior year. And it was a struggle. I was behind academically. I felt disconnected from friends.

Things slowly got better, and after I joined a support group at the hospital for other teenagers. And, after many months, I got back in shape — mentally, as well as physically.

But throughout all of it, my thinning hair served as a reminder of the time I was in pain and losing my health.

I often felt bad for caring about my hair at such a serious time. I had much more pressing issues, like my health, my education and my future. In retrospect, I think fixated on my hair because I thought I could control it. Though, in reality, I couldn’t.

Eventually, I was tired of waking up every morning and examining what was left of hair. So, I cut it. And now, I’m really happy rocking cute, short hair.

I’m not completely out of the woods yet, but my health is stable and my future is looking up.

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