New hair brings changes: From straight to curly: Cancer patient gets new lookFARGO – For 41 years, Suzi Darling had straight, brown hair that she kept shoulder-length, long enough to put in a ponytail.
By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM
FARGO – For 41 years, Suzi Darling had straight, brown hair that she kept shoulder-length, long enough to put in a ponytail.
Then, a year ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Darling started working out with a personal trainer, and felt a lump while massaging her sore pectoral muscles.
“I say exercise saved my life, but in a different way,” she says.
Darling, a sixth-grade teacher at Discovery Middle School, started chemotherapy in January. Two weeks into treatment, her hair started falling out, just as Violet Deilke, a hair loss specialist at the Centre for Hair and Wellness in Moorhead, had warned her.
“I didn’t like the feeling of the hair having control, so I took control,” Darling says.
Darling got her hair cut in a short pixie style to see what she’d look like. A few days later, her husband shaved her head in their bathroom while her then 8-year-old son ran the vacuum cleaner and her daughter, then age 9, held her hand.
Just like parents save strands from their child’s first haircut, Darling’s daughter gathered strands of Darling’s hair to keep in an envelope, which is still in her bedroom.
After her last chemotherapy treatment in April, Darling lost her eyebrows and eyelashes. That’s when she started to feel especially self-conscious. She didn’t like wearing a wig. She says it felt fake. She wore hats instead, or occasionally a bright pink wig.
“I liked my hair, then suddenly it was gone,” Darling says. “You tell yourself, ‘I’m not a vain person, it will grow back.’
“You lose a little part of yourself.”
Darling went through radiation and is now undergoing infusions. As she looks at women in her support groups, “I think they look absolutely adorable in their scarves and absolutely adorable in their hats,” she says. “I don’t know if I ever felt like that.”
In May, she posed for a picture with her brother at the Fargo Marathon, both sporting bald heads. On the Fourth of July, her hair had started to grow back enough that she went out in public for the first time without anything covering her.
“It felt so good to be free of anything on my head,” she says, adding she even slept with a knit cap on.
Once her hair started growing back in, it was curly. She now finds herself standing in the hair care aisle at Target, reading the labels of one bottle after another.
“It’s very different going from straight hair. You have your favorite products, you knew what to do,” says Darling, now 42.
“I can live 41 years with straight hair and 41 years with curly,” she says.