When I met Brooke we both had incredibly long hair. I have never known her to not have long hair. Shortly after we became friends I chopped my long curls after an impulse to drop some bad relationship karma. That was the first time I donated my hair. It was like somehow all this emotional baggage was clinging to every strand of my hair, weighing me down. Once I lost that weight I felt so free, it was like my new life could begin. Funny enough, I met my husband the next day, but that’s another story.
Brooke’s hair was a seemingly integral part of who she was as a person. It was long, dark and thick – the kind of hair that only exists in shampoo commercials. She has spent a lot of her life thinking about that hair. After all, it was there every time she looked in the mirror.
When Brooke’s brain tumor was diagnosed the doctors recommended radiation. We all knew there was a chance that, among other things, she could lose her hair, but we hoped for the best. Brooke started strong, but was soon overwhelmed by almost every side effect radiation has to offer. Hair began to fall and a smooth, shiny spot appeared where the radiation treatments had been focused. It soon became clear that shaving the rest of her head was unavoidable. People started posting pictures on her victory page of themselves cutting, donating and shaving their heads and a head shaving party was planned to celebrate the last of 30 radiation treatments.
When it finally came time to let go of the rest of her hair she was surrounded by love. Multiple people shaved their heads in solidarity with Brooke, and the heart touching moment of transformation was complete with pictures and a film crew.
“When I first started this I told you guys that I wanted (…) a chance to show what living in authenticity is about. Show that love wins, and for people to see the community of Christ and be drawn to the nature of Christ. Clearly I cannot do that myself. (…) Your being bold and your stepping out is a testimony to me and encouraging to me through all of this. I’m just so thankful and I love you all so much, and I am just so glad that love is winning. Everyone is sharing so much of this story – it is reaching people that I don’t even know. And because of people stepping out and that boldness I am just so grateful and I love you guys so much.”
-Brooke, right before the shaving
Her hair is gone but the reality of it is; she is still Brooke. Her inner beauty far outweighs any aspect of her appearance. The transition was emotional and tumultuous, but now it is like she never even had, or needed, hair. Where auburn tresses used to adorn her head she now decorates herself with scarves, hats and earrings. Even without them she looks great, of course, but then she never had to do up her hair to look amazing either. She really looks exactly the same – those knowing eyes, that radiant smile. Nothing seems missing, she is no less whole. The societal ideal of what is beautiful can’t compete with Brooke’s heart and soul. She has challenged our concept of beauty and shown us what we all should have known; Hair is irrelevant.
Being bald is just a part of who Brooke is for this season, and oh boy, has she owned it! She may not have planned to drop karma via a haircut like I did back in college, but she did. Her hair loss seemed like a pivotal moment. Everything has brought her to this point so that her new life can finally begin. One where she accepts the pain, sweat and tears that belong to her and she uses them to lift up others. Every moment she has struggled, every time she has wanted to cry out, every moment she wished to be able to step out of her body and be back in her “normal” life – all of this she is using to fuel her fire. There is no direction but forward, and the future looks so, so bright.
Watch for my last blog of this series on Authenticity, coming next week.