Penny’s Blog

Bald = Bold

Posted on: April 15, 2009

I’ve been trying to put into words, for myself and others,  why I’m not so happy about getting my hair back. When I was bald, I felt fierce, proud. Now that there’s fuzz growing in, I feel infantilized and embarassed.

Well, once again, NYT writer and prostate cancer patient Dana Jennings has successfully expressed what I’ve been feeling:

In a time of utter vulnerability… I needed the primal ferocity that a buzz cut proclaims. I needed to look like a soccer thug or an extra from “Prison Break” to help get me through…   I still do.

The full column is here.

I’ve talked about my baldness more than any other part of my cancer experience—partly because it’s the most visible to people, but partly because I could embrace it as one aspect of the cancer experience over which I had some control.  As I’ve commented here before, I haven’t noticed any profound spiritual insights or profound personal transformations out of having cancer, but going around bald has been life-changing.

On the “spiritual insights” note, Sol and I were talking last night, and at one point I mentioned that these days I’ve come to admire people who are unapologetic about being atheists, that they help me feel more comfortable with my own atheist tendencies.  He said, “Oh, really? I would think that what you’ve been through with cancer would make you reach out for religion.” Nope, said I—though I’ve appreciated and encouraged people who wanted to pray for me (because it lets me know that people care about me, it helps people feel they’re supporting me, and hey, what can it hurt?). “But,” Sol said, “if you’re staring your mortality in the face, and there’s nothing on the other side, it could be terrifying.”  I said, “No, I won’t be terrified, because I’ll be dead.”

So there you have it: Fuzzy, godless, and unterrified.*

(*To steal a joke from Nathan Lane: “Fuzzy, Godless, and Unterrified! I have all their albums!”)

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3 Responses to "Bald = Bold"

Bold/bald and an aetheist to boot? Now I know why I like you. Keep on.

We will have time to talk about such things next week on our Road Trip. For now let me say that I find it easier to deal with issues of mortality because I don’t believe there is a god somewhere dispensing healing or suffering randomly, without regard to prayers.

“Of the all the wonders that I yet have heard, It seems to me most strange that men should fear, Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come.”

You have always been wise, Penny.

Bald is not the ONLY way to be bold but it is certainly one way. I am sure you can find ways to be BOLDY hairy!

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  • dswope: I just happened by after my I received an email from a close colegue that he was headig for IVPalooza. All I knew was that it was a form of chemo.
  • Brian: Hi Penny; When I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma I found your site. Reading about what you went through was incredibly helpful to me. Tha
  • Tricia: Still here; still caring; still rooting you on!

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