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Bald is Beautiful, But Not Always Easy

I’m Avery, I’m currently 23 and almost eight months in remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was diagnosed at a crazy time - in the middle of a global pandemic as a graduating senior in college - but have always been about keeping a positive attitude. I’m happy to say I’ve successfully earned my bachelor's degree from Indiana University and am working full-time in Chicago. I’m passionate now about uplifting anyone going through a diagnosis, because it’s not always easy and we all need encouragement every once in a while.

In a time of cute claw clips and Dyson Airwrap curls, it was nearly impossible for me as a 22-year-old woman to think about losing my chest-length, beautiful blonde hair. It seemed childish to be so upset, but I had spent so much time and money getting it the way I wanted. Eventually I chose to shave it, and do believe I looked beautiful both bald and now with my short eight-months-in-remission hair, but sometimes I can’t help but look at current beauty trends or standards and think: “Wow, hair really is part of your look.”

During my treatments, I embarked on a little experiment. I own two wigs that are fairly convincing; I thought I’d test what it’s like going out in a wig, then again in the same outfit just bald. “Let’s see just how important hair really is,” I said.

The results will probably shock you -- not. Of course I received a lot more stares without the wigs, and was generally more confident with them. I noticed right away how heavily current fashion styles tend to be somewhat gender-neutral and oversized, and rely on long, beautifully styled hair to appear more “feminine.”

Another notice right off the bat is just how differently people look and treat you. I expected looks, but it was wild just how many people will openly stare at a woman when she’s bald. It almost seemed like people treated me like a “cool girl” when I had the conventionally attractive hair and clothes, and a “try hard” when I’d have the same outfit with a pixie. You’re obviously not going to wear a pin on your shirt that says, “I had cancer, I didn’t choose this look. I’m doing the best I can now please stop staring at me.” I almost wish you could when the look in stranger’s eyes screams: “You’d look better with long hair.”

Now I didn’t do this experiment to make myself feel bad, but rather to drive myself to an even more confident place. No one but us - women who have lost their hair to disease - know what it’s like to walk into a room and know you’ll never quite blend in, and that it wasn’t your choice. I wanted to spin that, and instead started looking at it as, “no one in this room looks like me, and I love that.” I learned to love the shine of my bald head, and now have fallen in love with the chemo curls I’m slowly getting. Confidence is sexy and I loved going around wearing the latest trends, looking cool while also knowing I am unique amongst the crowd. I saw the smile I wore proudly when I was out as part of my look, and a way better accessory than any loose curl (any way easier too, those Dyson’s are expensive!!)

In my time during treatment, I realized there’s no rulebook. Wear what you want, choose a wig or don’t, it doesn’t matter. Beauty shouldn’t be defined by a standard, and it’s exciting to break the mold. I hope anyone reading this going through something similar can embrace your inner confidence as well. Bald is beautiful!

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