Robin Roberts Has Empowered Me!!

First of all – thank you everyone who left such encouraging comments on my last post. You guys make me smile!

Moving on…

As I’m sure anyone who has access to the internet, and therefore anyone who reads this blog, knows Robin Roberts on Good Morning America is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. I’ve always liked her – she’s funny, beautiful, gracious and seems to be a genuinely nice person. My esteem for her has grown tenfold, however, as I’ve watched her become an invaluable resource for people. Her celebrity status allows her to reach millions of viewers, educating them on the different aspects of breast cancer from screenings to diagnosis to treatment and everything in between.

This morning she talked about losing her hair. As she told her tale I just sat there nodding my head, agreeing with everything she said. The emotions she described are a common theme with women who lose their hair due to chemotherapy. Then she showed, on national television, a video of when she shaved her head. That’s what I call brave. When Diane Sawyer asked her why she chose to show the video she quoted her mother –
Make your mess your message. I love that quote and think I may use it for the rest of my very long life.

So I decided if Robin Roberts was going to share her head shaving I could be brave and share mine.

My first chemo treatment was on Thursday, June 2, 2005. My oncologist said I’d probably lose my hair within fourteen days. Two weeks later, however, I still had a pretty good head of hair. I’d started shedding a bit, but I had so much hair to begin with I thought maybe I’d be one of those rare women who kept their hair. The following day, however, I accepted the fact my hair was dead. It was like dry straw and I couldn’t style it or do anything with it.

That was one of my sad days. I knew I was going to lose my hair and I spent that Thursday in mourning. Later that evening I called my friends Beth and Rhonda and asked if they would come over Saturday morning for a buzzing party. In that moment I took control of my situation and my perspective on the whole thing changed.

Saturday morning – 18 days after my first treatment – we had a Free the Follicle Festival at my place. Beth brought her girls, I made coffee and Beth & Rhonda brought donuts and juice for the kids. After getting hopped up on sugar and caffeine we went into the kitchen while the kids watched a movie or played in the living room. Beth had the sheers and Rhonda took pictures.

First Beth gave me a skater cut, but I don’t have a good picture of that. Then she gave me a bit of a Mohawk.

I think it looked more like one of those hedgehog boot scrapers, but whatever.

Beth’s youngest daughter, Baylie, hung out between the kitchen and the living room, acting as herald for the other kids with each new style. They’d all come running in and laugh, especially when I was trying to do the Billy Idol snarl. I DO have a photo of that, but you’re outta luck. Sorry.

We tried gelling the Mohawk to spike it, but sadly it didn’t work. Finally the job was done and this is what I was left with:

I had to go put on some make up and a pink shirt so I’d look like a woman and not an unwoman.

Surprisingly I didn’t mind the buzz. I was given the name of G.I. Jen and fancied myself as a Demi Moore look alike. Until you looked anywhere but the hair. Sunday night my scalp hurt so bad I had to take some of the pain medication left from the surgery. The following Tuesday as I stood in the shower my hair came out by the handfuls.

I think if it had happened a week earlier it would have broken me. But because I had already done my grieving and taken control of the situation I had more of an “oh well” attitude.

The way my friends and I made it a fun event was so good for the kids, too. I can only imagine the uncertainty, among many other things, they had to feel. I’m thankful both kids were open and honest about what they were feeling, but I also know they both tried to protect me in their way. I may be way off, but I truly believe the way I handled losing my hair by including them and making it kind of fun was one less stress they had to deal with. At least I hope so.

And then there’s Beth and Rhonda. I know for a fact there’s not one person on the face of this planet with better friends. Maybe as good, but not better. I could probably write reams about how awesome they are, though I won’t. I will say I think the three of us can have fun doing just about anything. What could have been a somber affair was instead a great time. We laughed so hard at one point we were doing that crying, not breathing thing.

And finally – don’t forget!!


  1. Dev on November 15, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Those are some awesome friends, Jen. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Becky on November 15, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    That was a wonderful way to handle that, Jen. And I happen to think you have a great headshape for bald…seriously! Sinead O’Connor works for you and you looked radiant and feminine in both photos…though I’m bummed we missed the Billy Idol snarl. ;o)I Loved that you guys called it “Free the Folicle Festival”, lol.You are so blessed to have friends like that to support you through such times!

  3. Monnik on November 15, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    You have the coolest attitude. I cracked up at the hedgehog bootscraper thing. Goodness, you’re funny!Your friends are awesome… what wonderful pillars of strength for you during that time.i think you look stunning in that buzz cut. seriously! You totally rocked that ‘do!

  4. beans on November 15, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    hehe-hedgehog boot scraper . .that’s funny! I agree, you did the do very well 🙂

  5. KT on November 16, 2007 at 12:22 am

    Jen, I love that you made a party out of it! You have some pretty wonderful friends. I got my buzzcut alone, but my hairdresser and her coworker were good company so it was kind of like a party, just with people I didn’t know as well.You looked great with your GI Jen cut. That was 2005, wasn’t it? What did you end up doing with your hair when it grew back (color it, grow it long, etc????) Don’t know why I’m fascinated with post-cancer hair! Katie

  6. Swishy on November 16, 2007 at 12:30 am

    I think you look absolutely beautiful in that picture 🙂

  7. Eileen on November 16, 2007 at 1:17 am

    What wonderful friends you have, and what a great idea! To be completely honest with you, you really look beautiful in the pictures. Especially the one where you are completely bald. You have the prettiest eyes and smile. That you for sharing these with us. I too love Robin Roberts and think her message today was awesome! You both are very brave women.XOXOXO

  8. Sherry on November 16, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Powerful message Jen…I’m glad you made your mess your message (I think that is an awesome way to look at life when the unexpected things happen). And when I say, “been there done that” you’ll know that’s a message of sisterhood. Too bad we don’t have a handshake we can use for that like other societies seem to have.I did a similar thing..took it right down to the bare head before it feel out, made a celebration of it…my decision had been to take control of it, not it take control of me. That was my philosophy throughout & in some ways I know it saved my sanity!One thing I learned from this (I’d share my photos but they are prints and not from a digital camera) is that hair is hair. Sure it represents an awful lot to us (we’ve had it for quite some time, we’re attached in more ways that one!), sure it is the first “true” evidence to the rest of the world that we are in a fight for our lives…but the beauty. The beauty I see in your face in the picture with the shirt, the victory picture of “I’ve done this part, I can do the rest”…our hair hides us. It is something we can use to cover up..and without it, it’s “here I am”…so our real beauty, the beauty that comes from within us finally gets to be seen by the world. What a rare gift that is.I’m glad that you were comfortable enough to share this part of your private journey. It is empowering.

  9. Katybug on November 16, 2007 at 10:28 am

    “Free the Follicle Festival”–hilarious! I love this part of you…how you deal with your emotions and come to an acceptance of what God is allowing in your life. Your face is glowing in these pictures…you are absolutely radiant. “I think if it had happened a week earlier it would have broken me. But because I had already done my grieving and taken control of the situation I had more of an “oh well” attitude.” Once again, God’s timing is so perfect. Thank you for sharing such a personal story, Jenni. I know this is such a blessing to others who are just starting their journey with breast cancer. It must be awfully cool to know you’re ministering to people you don’t even know, who “happen” upon your blog and find out they’re not alone, that you have forged your path ahead of them and come out victorious. I’m so glad we met online and hope we get to in person one of these days!

  10. Katybug on November 16, 2007 at 10:36 am

    One more thing: you have Demi Moore beat by miles. She’s waaaay too harsh!!!!

  11. susan on November 16, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I totally agree with Katybug, you are gorgeous and very, very real. I love your festival and how you included your bestest friends and the kids as well.

  12. Jenster on November 16, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Dev – They are awesome, aren’t they?Becky – The shape of my head was one of my biggest concerns. What if I turned out to be an egghead or something??? And actually, I just came up with the “Free The Follicle Festival” yesterday. lolMonnik – I’m not so sure I rocked the do, but thank you just the same. :o)Beans – I call ’em like I see ’em. lolKT – My hair right now is just a little above my shoulders. It’s much like it had been – thick and wavy/curly. I do color it to get rid of the gray, but it’s about the same color. Swishy – Gosh, thanks. You all are making me blush!Eileen – Thank you. That smile is my “picture” smile and I’m not real fond of it. I think it looks fake. But no one else seems to.Sherry – Thanks for sharing. I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with showing the pictures, but I figured what the heck. :o)Katybug – I’m so glad we met online and hope we get to in person one of these days!Right back atcha, girl!!Susan – Thank you. :o)

  13. CindyS on November 16, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Hon, you do things with class!! The pictures are awesome and like Monnik said, you rock the do.Now I’m not hitting on you but you have a classic beauty so it seems to you can do any do!CindyS

  14. Lisa on November 17, 2007 at 8:16 am

    We don’t get to see the Billy Idol snarl? Rats.I think you hit the nail on the head by taking control of the situation. Far better than letting the situation control you! Yay, Jen! :o)Sounds like you’ve got some awesome friends!

  15. Lynilu on November 19, 2007 at 2:29 am

    Girl, you look awesome! Your messages are just wonderful, and I admire you for everything you do. You are something else!

  16. His Girl on March 2, 2008 at 12:17 am


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