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Blissfully bald indeed

As I type this, I have nearly 100% less hair than I did the last time I posted.

One rockin' dancer Donna (photo used with permission)

My progression toward baldness began with reading the post “Blissfully Bald,” in which my friend Chris (From the Bungalow) announced that he and his wife, Karin (Pinwheels and Poppies), would be shaving their heads for St. Baldrick’s.  Their inspiration, Donna’s Cancer Story, chronicled one girl’s 31-month battle with cancer.

I’d seen references to Donna’s Cancer Story since September, but it seemed like such a commitment to follow a 31-day blog series. Also, really depressing. I couldn’t imagine a more depressing read.

After reading “Blissfully Bald,” I knew I’d have to read Donna’s Cancer Story. That Friday evening, I settled in and began reading about Donna.

I cried. Oh, how I cried. But I also felt barriers between me and others removed by growing understanding. Through Mary Tyler Mom‘s open, raw descriptions of her daughter Donna’s life with cancer, “them” became “us.” “Those parents” became “someone who could be me”; the children, “someone who could be my son.”

My world grew simultaneously smaller and larger.

As a writer, I (naturally) had to write my way toward clarity. I did so in my post “On bald heads & being unending.” I let people know where they could donate to team Blissfully Bald.

On Valentine’s Day, following a prompt from Chris, I joined an abundance of bloggers in writing about the March head-shaving event in which Chris and Karin would be shaving their heads. I knew I’d be in Chicago for the event, as well as to catch up with my old friend Dana, but I had no idea I’d end up joining team Blissfully Bald.

On March 11, Chris sent an email including the following paragraph:

I just wanted to mention that anyone can join our team or Team Donna! If you are/will be in the Chicago area on March 24th, we’d love to see you. And if you decided to join our team as a shavee, well, we’d love you forever.

“Damn it, Chris,” I muttered.

Once thoughts like that get in my brain, it’s hard to make them go away. Typically they’ll only do so if I do something like sign up. Which I did the next day.

I’d like to say mine was a really considered choice, but it wasn’t. There were little fragments of thoughts here and there, but mostly it was a gut choice inspired by a girl named Donna who’s been in my mind and heart every day since I read her cancer story over a 12-hour period.

I wrote about my decision to join team Blissfully Bald here. It still didn’t feel like a huge decision, exactly. Just something I was doing.

Then I started reading the comments, both on the blog and on my Facebook page. I learned about more people who’d fought or continue to fight cancer and was bowled over. What started as “something I’d be doing for Donna in a few days” became something all-consuming. Something that I felt bound me so much more powerfully to this world, and to the hearts of others. Beautiful, inspired, inspiring hearts.

The days flew by. I found myself in Chicago. I was a little nervous, but a lot excited.

These smiles don't lie

I got to meet Katy (I Want a Dumpster Baby), whom I instantly loved every bit as much as I thought I would.

By the time we parted ways, I felt like I’d known her forever. Indeed, my heart continues to insist it has.

That evening, I met my teammates. Like Katy, I loved (and laughed with!) them immediately, and couldn’t believe for a second we’d only just met.

By the time Chris and Karin collected me the next morning, I was feeling anything but collected. I’d had a rough night’s sleep, imagining everything that could go wrong the next day and fearing what I couldn’t imagine–in other words, everything about the event.

As we ate lunch just before the event, my anxiety had a direct line to my bladder, which it used to send me scrambling to the bathroom four times in an hour and a half.

Arriving at the event venue, the very place where Donna had celebrated each of her birthdays, I found my nerves instantly soothed. I looked into the faces of others who’d soon be shaving their heads as well as those cheering the shavees on and knew I was safe. I couldn’t imagine anything bad happening, but I knew I’d be fine if it did.

We met Mary Tyler Mom. I wanted to crush her with hugs and tell her how much she’d changed my life with her words, but instead simply hugged her.

We chatted. We schmoozed. We checked out the haps. We hugged Katy lots when she arrived.

Chris was one of the first to get his head shaved.

Baldness in progress!

Crowd reaction

In between shavings

Karin followed soon after.

Shave in progress

Beautifully bald

My slot was an hour and a half after Karin’s. I was impatient for its arrival, but needn’t have been. It came quickly.

What I’d built up in my head to a momentous, earth-shattering thing was instead quick. Painless. Hardly noteworthy.

My hair was divided into four ponytails I’ll (hopefully) donate to Locks of Love.

Making four ponytails (photo by Karin)

Each ponytail was clipped.

First! (photo by Karin)

My hair was cut.

Cut in progress (photo by Karin)

My head was shaved.

Shave in progress (photo by Karin)

I beamed the whole time. Just beamed.

When I stood in front of a bathroom mirror a couple of minutes later and took in the change, impossibly, I found myself smiling wider still.

I was seeing me. Me unconcealed.

By the time my friend Dana arrived, fresh in from Ireland, I must’ve rubbed my head 100 times already.

"Reunionized!" -- Dana (photo by Dana S)

Dana returned my sock puppet Arrrgyle, who’d visited Ireland with her for reasons described here, but demanded a picture in exchange.

Arrrgyle returned from Arrrland (photo by Dana S)

Dana, her honey and I left the Candlelite shortly afterward, but we had time for a few more pictures first.

Team Blissfully Bald (photo by Dana S.)

Bloggers united against kids cancer! L to R: Mary Tyler Mom, Moms who drink and swear, Pinwheels and Poppies, From the Bungalow, me and I Want A Dumpster Baby (photo by Dana S.)

By the time I returned to my hotel around 8 p.m., full up on Indian food, I was equal parts exhausted and happy.

I’d started out the day so anxious I was shaking, only to conclude the day so calm I could’ve given 90% of my calm away and still been feeling just dandy.

In the morning it had seemed like such a huge thing to be shaving off my hair, not just for me but for the people whose loved ones’ names I held in my hands (on a couple pieces of paper) and heart throughout the day.

By the evening, it seemed such a small offering. A token, or one-tenth of one, especially in comparison to all those who’ve lost their hair in the hopes that doing so would allow them to only lose their hair.

My baldness pales by compare, but I hope that someone, somewhere, someday will know greater health because of my small step toward conquering cancer. I wish everyone, everywhere could know that health now, but that’s outside the power of any one individual. Real progress will be in the accumulation of all our small steps, one added to the other added to the other.

My steps were small, but in the right direction, and taken with arms linked through those of so many other steppers, each of whose steps take might different forms, but all of whose steps leads us toward a brighter world less full of needless loss.

It’s thinking of all those steps we’re taking together, with arms and hearts linked, that I leave Chicago not only bald, but blissfully bald.

© 2012 Deborah Bryan. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.

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  1. March 25, 2012 at 9:02 am

    You are GORGEOUS. Head full of hair or completely bald. Think the world of you, Deb! What a wonderful tribute. Bless you sweet friend. ❤ Hugs

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Thank you! I expected to finish and think, “Gah! My forehead! It could eat entire countries!” but all I feel is free. And blessed.

  2. March 25, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Thank you for your sacrifice!

  3. March 25, 2012 at 9:09 am

    You look beautiful! ♥ (Marcy from Blog Of A Peri-Menopausal Woman……. When I Remember)

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:22 am

      THANK YOU, Marcy! I don’t just mean for this, either. Your words helped ease my anxiety so much; part of that was the words, part of that was the “you” behind them. I’m so grateful. ♥

  4. March 25, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Just perfect. Smiling the whole read through.

  5. March 25, 2012 at 9:15 am

    And beautiful…what an intimate and giving thing to do. Thanks for sharing it with us. God speed back to your nest and the loving arms of your family.

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Thank you for your kind words and well wishes! I have had a wonderful time here, but I’m ready to be back home with my boys. Thinking of that first forehead kiss already . . .

  6. March 25, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Deb ~ you are absolutely stunning!!!! You’re a perfect example of “beauty is more than skin deep”. The look on your face is as if your soul is smiling, as well. Purely radiant!

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Thank you, Carol! “as if your soul is smiling”–I had an “aha!” moment when I read this. That’s exactly what it feels like. Exactly.

  7. March 25, 2012 at 9:24 am

    I made the decision to become a shavee for a local St Baldrick’s event last month. With everyday that brings me closer to my shave, I grow more and more excited. I am so glad that I can see and read about these beautiful bald journeys to ease me into mine. You rock the baldness with ferocity.

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:35 am

      YES! Your comment made me so happy! My BFF shaved her head back in September and described the atmosphere as being wonderful. That was absolutely the case with yesterday’s event, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find a similar camaraderie. I hope you’ll think of this blog and consider following up here, because I’d love to hear about your experience!

  8. March 25, 2012 at 9:25 am

    You are amazing and beautiful! 🙂

  9. March 25, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Beautiful. Not only are you beaming in your pictures, your blog post is beaming too! Thank you so much for sharing this, for bringing awareness about, for being you…

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Most of the time my words come pretty quick, but this time they came so, so slowly. After reading the first draft, I didn’t mind so much that they came slowly, because they said just what I wanted them to.

      Thank you so much for your support, here and in so, so many things. I may not have met you (yet!), but you’re a light and a joy in my life, and I’m grateful for you.

  10. March 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

    “I was seeing me. Me unconcealed.”

    Me, unconcealed.

    That line is as beautiful as any I have read. The fact your choice was an instinctive gut one only reveals more about who you are and illustrates how human connection is the key to finding ourselves.

    The photos are wonderful. The message is lovely. The purpose is painfully beautiful.

    You, unconcealed, are beautiful.

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

      I read this comment on my phone right after you posted it. The feelings it inspired were so many and varied I couldn’t imagine being able to reply to it.

      And yet, here I am, trying to find the right thing to say to it. “Thank you” is a good start, I guess, but it doesn’t seem like enough.

      Thank you. Thank you. So much.

  11. March 25, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I don’t like this post, not at all, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE it. You made me smile! Seeing several of my favorite bloggers getting together for something so wonderful. For Donna and all those who are fighting just like she did. And look at that beautiful smile!!! You’re a champ girl and you’ve done a great thing along with others! Thank you for being you and sharing this journey with us!

    • March 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

      I feared reading the rest of your comment after reading to the second comma, so I loved to read where it went instead! Thank you so, so much for these words, and a morning surprise to keep me on my toes. I felt awed to be in such good company yesterday, and to be seeing with my eyes a place and people who have touched my heart so deeply.

  12. March 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

    You look great! I’m sure that’s partly because of how good you feel inside… but part of it is external too… you just plain LOOK GOOD!
    I’m not sure I could be that brave. A few years ago, I was with a friend who had been through chemo, and she was talking about losing her hair. I said that I hated to sound so shallow, but that I thought that was the worst part. And she surprised me by agreeing. She said that it was like taking away the last shred of her dignity.
    But I hope she saw later, and now, that she retained her beautiful dignity through all of it.

    • March 26, 2012 at 5:32 am

      That first paragraph makes me smile so wide. I feel good inside (well, apart from a little bit of stomach upset, but that’s a different kind of “inside”) and outside! I expected the “inside” part, but not so much the “outside.”

      But I hope she saw later, and now, that she retained her beautiful dignity through all of it.
      This is such a beautiful sentiment, so beautifully expressed. I hope so, too.

  13. March 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

    You look like Sinead O’Connor! And by that I mean beautiful. I hope that you and all the bloggers had a wonderful time meeting. How special to bond for a good cause. May the money you all raised make the difference for many someones. Glad to know your hair went to Locks of Love.

    • March 26, 2012 at 5:35 am

      It’s funny, but it felt like we’d all met and bonded long ago, although we hadn’t actually done the “meeting” part. It was a wonderful weekend with wonderful people . . . but I do so look forward to my next many trips being trips with my boys, just for the sake of seeing the world together. 🙂

    • March 26, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      That’s exactly who I thought of when I first saw her, too, Renee!

  14. March 25, 2012 at 10:05 am

    As I said last night, stunning! I also see Sinead in you (I think it’s the bald head with the fancy dress that makes it easy). 🙂

    Your description of your arrival at the venue is exactly how I thought it would be for you. Truly.

    Hugs across the miles.

    • March 26, 2012 at 5:53 am

      I love that dress so much! I went to Ross for a pair of jeans, left with a whole new (totally inexpensive and awesome) outfit. :p

      I’m not sure what I was picturing for the venue, but it would’ve been nigh impossible to sustain anxiety in the actual one. Thankful for that, and to hear Li’l D stirring now. It’s good to be back, even if he was deep into Daddy mode when I returned last night!

      *hugs*

  15. March 25, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Amazing, amazing, amazing. (I’m short on words, so I have to repeat that one for emphasis.)

  16. March 25, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I think you look really cute, your head is a good shape for baldness. You are beautiful inside and out!

  17. March 25, 2012 at 10:17 am

    As I read this today I sit in tears. Only this morning I found out that my aunt who has been helping me take care of my mom since her accident has stage 4 ovarian cancer. I am so tired of hearing that ugly word. It has taken so many of my family and friends. She is handling it so well and is already tying things up for her family. Thank you once again for the love you showed to so many suffering from the many types of cancer.
    Becca

    • March 26, 2012 at 9:40 pm

      I am so sorry to hear about your aunt. The words “already tying things up for her family” make my heart ache for you and all her loved ones. I send you and your family so much love. Big, big hugs.

  18. March 25, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Congratulations, Deb! You’ve taken part in helping to educate and heal those battling cancer. Thank you. You look beautiful.

    • March 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you, Lenore! I like the baldness more and more with every passing minute. I’m grateful for how it’s already opening my eyes to a whole new perspective on so many things. I’m still in the “many questions” phase, but maybe someday I’ll have an answer or two.

  19. March 25, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Gorgeous woman, beautiful soul! I have to repeat someone above who said, you and this post are beaming!

    • March 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      Thank you, Darla! I got a little misty as I typed parts of it, but I hoped that it was the joy that’d shine through. The circumstance that brought us all together was horrible, but our unity was absolutely joyous. Though I often despair at how much loss still stands between us and “never again another,” I hoped it was that joy I’d get across. It sounds like I did it! ♥

  20. March 25, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Yay!!!!! I’m so proud of you! I was smiling from ear-to-ear as I read this (except for the parts where I got just a bit teary-eyed!) And look at those amazing cheekbones! 😉

    • March 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      I thought my most prominent feature post-shaving would be my forehead, but I smiled when I saw that–to me–that was in fact my cheekbones. It made me think of you, which made me smile all the more in turn. ♥

      • March 30, 2012 at 6:23 am

        Awww, I’m glad! ( BTW A large forehead is indicative of a large brain–at least that’s what I’ve always told K, who also has a large forehead!) Glad you’re back safe and sound 🙂

  21. March 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Your a brave beaming bald beauty. What a wonderful thing you did. You are a true inspiration Deb. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  22. March 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    So beautiful – you, Chris, Karin and everyone else there – what you did – how you look….

    Just beautiful!

    • September 10, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      Thank you, belatedly, for your support! Six months out, I’m pretty certain I’ll never grow out my hair long by choice again.

  23. March 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    You look amazing, with or without hair.

    Doing something like this is so brave. Kudos to you!

    • September 10, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      Thank you so much. I’m saying so late, but in a way, I’m glad for that. Revisiting this six months down the road reminds me how momentous it felt then, though it simply feels like all that could ever have been now.

  24. March 25, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    You did it! I’m so proud of you. You’re beautiful!

    • September 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      I’m following a group of a few dozen moms on FB who all shaved their head at the same event. Some of the pictures the last few days have made me wish everyone could have the experience, once. It is so liberating.

  25. March 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Your beauty shines. 😀

  26. March 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    This is just amazing I want to crush all of you with hugs. So beautiful and you and all of you are beaming. Safe trip home and your spirit and soul continue to amaze and inspire me!

    • September 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      Reading your comment makes me realize how long it has been since I “talked” with you online. I miss you. I would love to crush you and yours with hugs.

  27. March 25, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Deb, I must say…I couldn’t wait to read the summary of the weekend from y’all. My weekend was full, but in the back of my mind was St. Baldricks, Donna, and the bloggers I admire most for doing something so awesome. And, with all of that anticipation, your smile, your “you-ness” it just SHINES. It shines so bright-I think that BALD is you; I really and truly do. You are beautiful, which is what I see in every cancer patient who ends up losing his/her head of hair. Beauty is transcendent. Thank you so much for bringing
    us with you, and to Chris and Karin and the others…what a happy thing. XOXOXO

    • September 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

      Since September began (and with it, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month), this event and Donna have been strong in my mind. I think of the experience of shaving my head, everything that led to it and everything that followed. I’m glad I did. I’m glad every time I see someone else has chosen to do it, especially now that I understand how essential philanthropic funding is for progress in combating childhood cancer. But always. I am so glad for how my life has changed thanks to Donna. ♥

  28. March 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I just finished reading Donna’s story and am eternally grateful to have been given the opportunity to read about her. I’m inspired. Humbled. By Donna. By Mary Tyler Mom. By you. Thank you for sharing and taking a leap that has sparked me to take a leap. You are beautiful. You were before.

    • September 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm

      This comment reached me just as my taxi ride from the airport was ending. I was overwhelmed by it then, and I remain overwhelmed by it now, both because of its beauty and because how, somehow, it bridged the distance between me as a fifteen-year-old and me now. Thank you for leaving this comment. Yours remains the most unexpected and unexpectedly wonderful comment I have received since I started this blog. Most of all, thank you for reading Donna’s story. I hope your life remains brighter for having read it. Mine sure does.

  29. March 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Great post, Deb! Thanks so much for joining our team, flying to Chicago, and raising so much more money than Karin and I could have done on our own. It was so great to meet you. I hope your flight home was uneventful and your return a welcome one. (BTW, I took those photos. 😉

    • March 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm

      Oh, and I’ll get the video to you soon! Can I close my parenthetical now?)

  30. March 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Love you, lady. xoxo

  31. March 25, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    You are beautiful, bald or not, inside and out.

  32. March 25, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Beautiful. Another inspiring post Deb, I’m so pleased it went so well. I was thinking of you on Saturday! x

  33. March 26, 2012 at 3:31 am

    Wow well done Deb, inspirational!

  34. March 26, 2012 at 8:37 am

    You’ve never been more beautiful.

  35. March 26, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Amazing, Deb! You are a truly beautiful person and you wear bald very well!

  36. March 26, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I have so much respect for you, Deb. So much!!!
    You remind of Tank Girl mixed with even more awesome combined with amazing to make 100% Deb and I love it.

  37. March 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Ditto Carol H. Rives’ statement. You’re stunning! And what a magnificent “small” step you took. Thank you.

  38. March 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Ahhh I’ve so been looking forward to this post! I knew you’d look amazing, but I was still completely floored by how stunning -and how YOU- you looked afterwards. This entire journey was so indescribably inspiring just for me as a reader, that I can only begin to imagine what it must have been like for you. (Though you give me a very good idea with this beautiful post!)

    P.S. – I have to pee a lot when I’m nervous, too, LOL 😉

  39. March 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Gosh, Deb, you look great without hair–so cute–so hip. I, too, have enormous respect for you, my friend! Love the solidarity!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

  40. March 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Beautiful.

  41. March 26, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Wow! I’d read about the head-shaving before, but obviously missed the part about it happening here last weekend. (Things have been weird in my neck of the woods. I’ve been missing a lot of stuff and I’m behind on my reading and writing.) I was also at the Creative Chicago Expo on Friday and Saturday trying to learn something to move along my writing ‘career’.

    Anyway, I think it’s wonderful what you guys did, on so many levels. And I echo the others about how cool you look sans hair! Cool and beautiful. ❤

  42. March 27, 2012 at 6:21 am

    A-mazing!

  43. March 27, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I sit and read, tears tracking down to the smile spreading across my face to join your own. You are lovely bald! I hope you are not to quick to don your wig but instead prance about boldly with your smile and your baldness.

    Val

  44. March 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    Wow. Well done! You really are an inspiration – this is incredibly brave and selefless.

    Have fun rocking some fabulous earrings and hats until the hair grows back 😉

  45. March 28, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    You are such a brave and wonderful woman! You are beautiful inside and out (even more now that you’re bald)! I am truly honored to know you! I will always be grateful for the day you stumbled upon my blog and commented.

  46. March 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    You look fantastic and for a worthy cause. Hugs… 🙂

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