Apr 10, 2011

It's Only Hair

By Wendy A. Jones

It's interesting to me how one moment--one tiny second in our entire lives--can sometimes change everything. You are going along, minding your own business, doing whatever it is that you do, and BAM! Things change. You change. You are no longer the person you were a moment ago.

On Sunday, my mom had what we first thought was a TIA, and then thought was a small stroke, and then discovered was a brain tumor.

My world completely changed.

It isn't that I've taken my mom for granted, exactly. I've always been grateful for her. She does so much for so many people--me, as the one blessed to be her daughter, most of all.

I think it was that the future, the one I had built in my mind, suddenly wasn't so certain. The nebulous figure Death that I knew would visit my immediate family sometime had suddenly gotten sharp edges and came into much more focus than I am comfortable with.

The same thing happened 2 1/2 years ago. My mother-in-law got cancer and we held our collective breath, hoping Death wouldn't notice us.

Thankfully, he walked on by. Or perhaps I should say "miraculously," because I truly think it was a miracle.

However, at the time of her diagnosis I remember feeling completely useless. What could I do, so far away? My heart ached. I couldn't cure cancer. I couldn't even understand half of the explanations.

I recall getting ready for bed one night in the middle of her treatment. I looked at myself as I brushed my hair, crying and praying. And I thought of something I could do.

"I'll grow out my hair," I thought. "I'll give it to Locks of Love so they can use it to make a wig for someone who has cancer."

This is a picture from the early fall in 2008, soon before her diagnosis. I've always been a short-hair kind of person. I had my moments of growing out the mane, but it never really made it past my shoulders--and that was in 7th grade. I thought I looked better (and it was certainly easier) with short hair.

From then until now, I've grown out my hair. My hair stylist was convinced I'd get attached to it and change my mind.

By the beginning of 2010, when this photo was taken, it was brushing my shoulders. I liked it in some ways, and in other ways it drove me crazy. Long hair takes so much effort, what with the drying and straightening or curling. When I put in the effort, it looked pretty good. All too often, though, I'd be pressed for time (what? Who, me?) and it would end up in a ponytail or a messy bun.

When I went and got my haircut last week (seriously, it was just last week. Even though it feels like it was about six months ago.), I told her I was still going to donate it. I'd figured it would take another year to grow it long enough to be able to cut it off at my chin and have the required ten inches to donate.

I can't tell you how many times I wished I could cut my hair over the last 2 1/2 years. I didn't count. But every time I wanted to cut my hair I'd remember my mother-in-law and how happy she was to have a wig so she didn't feel embarrassed about her bald head. I'd think to myself, "It's only hair."

So when I woke up at 3 am the other day and was thinking too much about how helpless I was, I realized that's what I could do. I could shave off my hair. If I was shaving my head, I would have the requisite ten inches.

The longer I thought about it, the more determined I became to do it. I worried a little about how it would come off--would I appear like a martyr? I didn't want to seem like that. I wanted to help somehow, and it seemed like one way I could do that would be to experience hats and head wraps and very little hair with my mother.

At one point I realized I was doing it more for myself than I was for her. I needed to do this.

In the scriptures, God and the prophets are continually urging the people to remember. Remember the great things I've done for your fathers. Remember Lot's wife. Ye are slow to remember the Lord. Remember how great the Lord has blessed you.

It's part of the mortal condition to be distracted. So many lessons I've had to learn more than once because I haven't sufficiently remembered what I needed to.

I realized I wasn't only shaving my head because I love my mother, and it sure as heck wasn't to be a martyr. I shaved off my hair so that every time I see myself in the mirror, every time I feel the wind touch my scalp, every time I put on a hat, I can remember how great the Lord has blessed me to give me such a mother.

She had surgery on Friday. They got the tumor out and we're hoping she can come home Monday to recover for a couple of weeks before starting her radiation and chemotherapy treatments.


  1. I think this is one of the most beautiful tributes to cancer I have ever read. Good work Wendy. I'm with you on this. Both my parents are cancer survivors and every year we participate in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. It is my way of trying to "do" something to help. If anyone is interested in helping me reach my goal, check out my blog www.johnsonteammom.blogstpot.com.

  2. Beautiful post, Wendy. My mom has beat cancer twice now. We still hold our breath as she is now 3 1/2 years in remission. Thank you for your tender tribute.

  3. Just beautiful! Your tribute and your newest picture. I think it's wonderful how we can lose ourselves in the service of others, and end up finding ourselves at the same time. I have a dear friend who has been battling stage four cancer for 4 years now and the helplessness I feel has only been abated through service. My oldest daughter has cut her hair twice now to donate it. Mine would take less than a year if I chose to do so. I've often cursed my hair and how quickly it grows (because I love short hair and hate paying for haircuts), but maybe I've totally missed the point. Is there a reason my hair grows so fast? Could I be doing more with what I've been given? My hair is at the point where I'm ready to hack it off myself. Perhaps I should wait a few more months and do something worthwhile with it.

    Love you Wendy and the fine example you are. You serve from love and teach us by example.

  4. And look at you, you look marvelous. Maybe it's the glow of doing something so sweet and so right.

  5. Wendy, I am touched. You are an amazing lady, and you look great!

  6. What a sensitive action. Cancer and other diseases leave us only reacting and helpless but you found a thoughtful way to be proactive.


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